Webb leaving MLS, wants to give more insight as EPL ref head

LONDON (AP) — Howard Webb is leaving his job as head of refereeing in Major League Soccer to take up a similar role in the English Premier League with the aim of improving the general standard of officiating and providing better insight into the calls made by referees.

The 51-year-old Webb has taken charge of the biggest games in soccer, and officiated in the Premier League for 11 years.

For the past six years, he has worked in the United States and Canada, initially leading MLS’ video review operations and then as general manager of the Professional Referee Organization.

Webb’s contract with MLS expires at the end of this season, at which time he will become the first chief refereeing officer of the Premier League’s refereeing organization, it was announced Wednesday.

As well as implementing an “Elite Referee Development Plan” — a program that will aim to improve the standard of officiating and increase the number of referees from diverse backgrounds at the top level — Webb also wants to show referees “in a different light.”

“I know there’s an awful lot of good people over there doing a lot of good work to improve the officiating standards,” Webb said. “There’s a lot of good officials over there as well working in the highest-profile league in the world.

“I think that story needs to be told as well as it can be, draw the curtain back on the work that officials do and just how good they are the vast majority of time.”

Having led the rollout of VAR in MLS, Webb has also pushed for more transparency from officials — from videos breaking down VAR decisions to regular calls with the media to go over video review situations.

Now he wants to provide that kind of added insight in England, where referees are not required to explain their decisions post-match.

“Of course working in the U.S., where video replays are a staple of all the major sports, has made that task a little bit easier, I guess,” Webb said.

“But, still, I think there’s ways that we can give extra insight to the fans in England, the stakeholders in England, as to the way that the system is working.”

Webb said he wants soccer fans to “go with us on that VAR journey so that they can see (its) true value.”

Mike Riley is stepping down as managing director of the Professional Game Match Officials Board this season, a role he has had for 13 years.

Riley described the hiring of Webb as a “major coup.”

The Premier League said Webb’s official start date will be confirmed in due course.


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