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Ex-Premier League referee Howard Webb is set to become the Premier League’s next chief refereeing officer as current chief Mike Riley has confirmed he will be leaving the role, according to reports.
Howard Webb currently occupies a similar role in America’s Major League Soccer, and remains under contract there. The Telegraph reports that a succession plan will be ‘phased over the coming season’.
It was reported three weeks ago that the Premier League clubs had been pushing for a change in the role, and Riley, who is still currently contracted with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), has since admitted it was time to move on.
Webb was in London this week to conduct meetings with PGMOL, and is now likely to take over the new role when his deal with the MLS ends in December.
A view among rival fans was taken that Howard Webb was Manchester United’s ‘12th man’, however a report conducted by the Mirror in 2014 found that in fact there were no significant differences in results between matches that Webb officiated involving Manchester United compared to officiating other sides.
Manchester United won 29 of the 47 matches that Webb officiated involving them, losing 10 and drawing six.
A number of clubs had submitted complaints of too many mistakes and errors under Riley’s leadership, and with the introduction of VAR into the Premier League, which was overseen by Riley, these mistakes have only come under much more scrutiny and the mixed results of VAR led to increased pressure on the 57-year-old.
Webb has previously worked with PGMOL as a performance director after he stepped down from his refereeing duties in 2014, and with the commencement of his new role in England he will be picking up the Elite Referee Development Programme, which has the aim of being able to ‘revolutionise’ the pathway into Premier League football for officials.
In a statement, Riley declared: “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.”
On Mike RIley, 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.”
This change comes just as Manchester United are changing a lot of their ‘upstairs’ themselves, as well as significant changes in the dressing room.
Ed Woodward has left the club after almost a decade as the club’s executive vice-chairman and has been succeeded by Richard Arnold as CEO. The club have also appointed John Murtough as their first football director, with Darran Fletcher working alongside him as a technical director.
Another big change is of course the appointment of Erik ten Hag as manager, who has already sanctioned the release of five players in Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic, while Nottingham Forest will be taking Dean Henderson on loan for the coming Premier League season.
The club will fly to Bangkok to face Liverpool on 12 July in the first of six pre-season friendlies, before heading over to Australia to play Melbourne Victory, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.
The side will then head back to Northern Europe to face Atletico Madrid in Oslo on 30 July, before a fixture at Old Trafford the next day against Rayo Vallecano sees the club wrap their pre-season tour up before kicking their Premier League season off against Brighton & Hove Albion on the 2022/23 opening weekend.