Howard Webb is to become the new chief refereeing officer of the Premier League when Mike Riley steps down.
Webb, 51, has been with the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) in the United States since 2017, first as boss of VAR operations before becoming general manager in 2018. He will leave his position with Major League Soccer at the end of his contract later this year, with his start date with PGMOL, the body which overseas refereeing in English football, to be confirmed.
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It was announced in June that Riley would leave his position as PGMOL managing director after coming under increasing pressure for refereeing standards and the way VAR has been implemented in the Premier League. Under Webb, MLS was one of the first leagues to introduce VAR, while the Premier League was one of the last major competitions to do so.
« I am looking forward to returning to England and starting this new challenge when I have fulfilled my contract with PRO — it’s an excellent opportunity for me, » Webb said.
« I am very proud of what has been achieved during my tenure here and I aim to have a similar impact with the PGMOL, using the Elite Referee Development Plan as a real driving force. I know I will be inheriting a strong foundation laid by a lot of good work over a number of years. It is about maintaining these standards and then enhancing them to grow and positively impact the game in England. »
Webb is married to German Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb, the former referee who was appointed PGMOL’s first women’s select group director in August 2021.
Webb officiated almost 300 Premier League matches during an 11-year career in the top flight before retiring in 2014. He refereed the World Cup and Champions League finals in 2010, plus the League Cup and FA Cup finals in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
Riley’s former role as managing director will be split into two positions, with Webb as chief refereeing officer and an as-yet-to-be-filled role as chief operating officer.
« This is welcome and hugely positive news for PGMOL, » Riley said. « Howard’s return is a major coup and this is a fantastic opportunity for Howard and the new leadership team to build on the strong foundations in place and to implement the Elite Referee Development Plan.
« I am looking forward to working with him and providing as much support as possible before handing on the baton to both Howard and the new Chief Operating Officer later this season. »
The Elite Referee Development Plan (ERPP) is intended to overhaul refereeing in England, just as the Elite Player Performance Plan, which was introduced in 2012, transformed the academy system and led to a higher-standard of young players coming through.
Alongside the two senior roles, recently retired referees Jon Moss, Martin Atkinson and Kevin Friend have stepped up into newly created management roles. Moss is now in charge of Select Group 1 (Premier League) while Atkinson is referee coach for this group. Moss is the boss of Select Group 2, working in the EFL.
The ERPP also aims to create a clear pathway to the top flight for the best young referees and increase representation and diversity.