English Premiership

Shock as top EPL ref steps down

Errol Sweeney. (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney. (Supplied)

Cape Town - A top Premier League referee in the UK has unexpectedly resigned from Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body responsible for match officials in English professional football, with immediate effect.

These are the guys who referee or appear as fourth officials in all Premier League games.

The news shocked the refereeing fraternity and many are wondering about his sudden departure.

Bobby Madley (32) quit without even blowing a whistle in this season's league campaign.

A statement said: "Bobby Madley is no longer employed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited. We understand that he has decided to relocate due to a change in his personal circumstances."

Even that statement is ambiguous.

"We understand he has relocated..." Doesn't the organisation know why he stepped down? Did he not tell it?

Members of the organisation are full-time referees and their salaries are financed by the Premier League, the Championship and the Football Association.

Madley was regarded by many as one of the rising stars among the league's elite officials, and he took charge of last season's Community Shield at Wembley Stadium.

He was on the Fifa International list of referees and there were high hopes he would become one of Europe's leading middlemen.

Circumstances around his departure were still unclear at the time of going to print.

There has been much speculation about the reasons he stood down, and rumours have led to counter-rumours.

"Personal circumstances" covers a wide area and such ambiguity stokes the flames of speculation.

While everyone is entitled to his or her privacy, it's best to come out in the open at the earliest opportunity and stop people from guessing and forming their own, often totally wrong, opinions, perceptions and interpretations.

Madley was trusted with some high-profile fixtures in recent seasons, including Manchester United’s home games against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea,and Liverpool against Arsenal.

He has been a Fifa referee since January last year and was well regarded at the Premier League, for which he had been taking charge of games for more than three years.

He was also one of the youngest referees on the current panel.

Mike Riley, the managing director of the body controlling refs in the UK and a key figure in preparing the Premier League's adoption of the video assistant referee system for next season, is expected to speak to his referees about the details of Madley's departure this week.

The select group will gather at St Georges Park for the first of this season's regular meetings, during which they review performances and discuss decisions.

There are 18 men in a select group of referees from whom appointments are made. Referees can be removed from the list if they get injured or if they fail the annual fitness tests.

Madley was criticised by a former head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited and current Daily Telegraph columnist Keith Hackett, who said Madley's performance in the Bournemouth versus West Ham game last season was less than expected. He said Madley failed to red-card Bournemouth's Simon Francis for a reckless challenge on Cheikhou Kouyaté.

He later overruled his assistant, who had flagged for offside during Bournemouth's late equaliser.

Whatever Madley's circumstances, we all must sympathise with him.

To take such a drastic step so early in his professional refereeing career must have been very hard for him and I think he should be left alone to reflect on this momentous decision; a decision that I hope he won’t regret in time.

He had a possible three World Cups to look forward to and that will now be lost forever.

Rising to the top of any ladder can be difficult, strenuous and time-consuming. Falling off that ladder is sharp, short and soul destroying.

Madley, good luck with your future endeavours wherever they might take you.

Happy whistling!

Email at sports@citypress.co.za

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