Mark Halsey has hit out at the standard of refereeing in the Barclays Premier League, blaming an "atmosphere of fear and paranoia" created by the body in charge of match officials.
The 52-year-old, who hung up his whistle at the end of last season, reckons only eight of the current crop are good enough and believes referees' chief Mike Riley and his assistant Keren Barratt are part of the problem. He told the Sun: "Don't get me wrong, there are some really top referees out there. "I reckon currently there is a 'great eight', in no particular order: Mark Clattenburg, Howard Webb, Mike Dean, Andre Marriner, Lee Probert, Martin Atkinson, Phil Dowd and Chris Foy. But as for the other 10 on the elite list, well...some are just not up to it while others need more experience, better nurturing and coaching." That puts referees including Mike Jones, Kevin Friend and Lee Mason on Halsey's list of those who are not good enough. Halsey believes much of the blame lies with the body that oversees referees - Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) - as well as their general manager Riley and select group manager Barratt. "[PGMOL] are running the whole show on an apparent power trip while creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia," Halsey said. "That is not helping the weaker officials improve and the system often confuses and frequently frustrates the best referees who get mixed messages about what is expected of them." Halsey believes the wrong officials are often picked for big games and blames that on Riley and Barratt. He added: "Riley had a reputation for being an over-fussy and pedantic ref. And his manner as general manager of elite referees - whereby he liaises with the Premier League and League Managers' Association - appears not to have changed." Halsey described Barratt, and the dual role he plays as both their boss who draws up the match lists and also offer advice as a "mentor", as a "big problem". He said: "How can he do that (be their mentor) when he wears another hat as head of the evaluation committee, which adjudicates and has the power to mark down referees, axe officials from matches or ultimately kick them off the list? There is a clear potential conflict of interest in the two roles".
That has infuriated his ex-colleague Poll, who said “He is 100 per cent betraying what paid him a living, which he would never have earned as the warehouse manager he was or the taxi driver he was. The refereeing fraternity are absolutely appalled at what he is doing. He hasn’t thought it through. I think it is absolutely appalling. Mark has got to take a long, hard look at himself. He won’t. I know the guy. I have known him for years. He is that type of character I’m afraid. I would never buy the book and I hope lots of people don’t as well. The sensible thing would be to ignore him. It is what people did at the referees’ camp for a long time when he used to turn up with his Bolton kit to train rather than the kit that we all had on. He had a squad number at Bolton and we were told what to wear to train as a group and he ignored that and was on his own. Maybe he is getting back at people."
Responding to Poll’s comments, Halsey said “I’m passionate about refereeing and what I’m saying is these referees need help, they need managing. Refs are not happy with the way they’re managed and the way they’re spoken to. You have to treat men like man and it’s all about managing men and talking to them and getting them onside, and at the moment that doesn’t happen. Referees are scared to come out and say anything, because if they do they’ll upset the management and they go missing off the fixture list. I know that because I’ve been involved for the last few years. They [the PGMOL] don’t know how to manage men. If you manage men properly you get them onside. If you go back a few years ago, Andre Mariner, a good friend of mine and a great referee, was so, so close to being taken off the list. I had a conversation with one of our managers and said, ‘you’ve got to look after him and give him an assessor who marks well and give him some confidence’. He was a game away from being removed off the Premier League list and they did that. They looked after him and now he’s a fantastic referee. They should have done that with Stuart Attwell. He should never have been taken off the Premier League list. He should still be on it because he’s good referee but he wasn’t managed properly. He wasn’t given the right games. It’s like a young player - you put them in and take them out. Give them the right games to referee, and put your big name refs on the big games. It’s a massive step up from the Football League to the Premier League. There’s no hiding place and they’ve got to be looked after. It takes about three or four years to get the players to trust you. Once you do that it becomes easier and we have to manage the refs to allow them to get there. The PGMOL don’t know how to motivate referees. It’s the same with players – you’ve got to know how to motivate them and that’s not happening. They need more help”.