Howard Webb to become Premier League's chief refereeing officer as Mike Riley steps down

·4 min read
Howard Webb - Howard Webb to become Premier League's chief refereeing officer as Mike Riley steps down - REUTERS
Howard Webb - Howard Webb to become Premier League's chief refereeing officer as Mike Riley steps down - REUTERS

Howard Webb is set to become the Premier League's chief refereeing officer after English football's long-serving head of match officials, Mike Riley, confirmed he is stepping down.

A succession plan will be phased in over the course of the coming season as Webb, the 2010 World Cup referee, remains under contract in a similar role with Major League Soccer.

Three weeks after Telegraph Sport revealed how clubs had been pushing for a change in leadership, Riley, 57, said in a statement that "now is the right time" to move on. Webb has been in London this week at meetings with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and he is likely to step into the role fully when his deal with United States football expires in December.

Riley has led the PGMOL for 13 years, most notably overseeing the introduction of the often contentious video assistant refereeing system in 2019.

However, with a host of clubs complaining of too many mistakes under his watch last season, his departure sets up a potential return to English football for Webb, who was at a PGMOL meeting in London this week.

Webb, who previously worked for the body as a performance director when he retired from on-field duties in 2014, had left frustrated after just 12 months and is now currently in a similar role at Major League Soccer in the United States.

The 50-year-old's contract does not expire until December, but his profile and reputation in the game is already being welcomed by clubs as an ideal fit for the high-pressure role.

Riley had overseen the difficult transition to Var with mixed results. The clubs are always divided by self-interest when it comes to the standard of refereeing but the mood had darkened in recent months, leaving Riley under significant pressure at the body, which also oversees officials in the Football League.

Mike Riley During the Fa Referee Networking Day at St Georges Park in Burton upon Trent Referee Diversity Networking Event - REX
Mike Riley During the Fa Referee Networking Day at St Georges Park in Burton upon Trent Referee Diversity Networking Event - REX

Riley said it was the right time to go with the Premier League introducing its Elite Referee Development Plan, which will revolutionise pathways for officials. A new system sees referees developed from the grass roots to the professional game, changing the slow pace currently overseen by the Football Association that many feel causes many talented young referees to drop out of the system.

“I am proud of the contribution our match officials have made to the professional game and have enjoyed working with such a dedicated, professional and high-quality group at all of the levels that PGMOL manages," Riley said in a statement.

“As the Elite Referee Development Plan begins to take shape, now is the right time to plan for the future and allow the new leadership team to build on the strong foundations that we have in place. I look forward to working with the new team over the next season and giving them my support before I step down.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “On behalf of the Premier League, I would like to thank Mike for his valuable contribution and significant commitment to PGMOL over the last 13 years as well as his considerable service to the game as an elite referee for 20 years.

“During his time at PGMOL, he has worked hard to deliver and develop high-quality match officials across the professional game and led on the implementation of VAR into the Premier League three seasons ago.”

Mark Bullingham, the FA's chief executive, added that he had "played a crucial role in the development of refereeing over recent years"

PGMOL said it would announce a successor in "due course", but Telegraph Sport understands it will be Webb, whose family will welcome a full-time return to the UK and Europe. His wife, the former Bundesliga referee Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, is already PGMOL’s select group director for the women’s game.

He is set to take over in a season when the top tier faces an unprecedented shortfall in experienced referees. Kevin Friend this week became the fourth long-serving official to quit the top flight. Friend, 50, was the youngest of the retirees this summer, following Mike Dean, 54; Jon Moss, 51; and Martin Atkinson, 51, out of the game.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting