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Ref chiefs defend standards

Referees chiefs are insistent match officials' standards have never been so good despite stinging criticism from the former head of Professional Games Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).

Keith Hackett has called for his successor Mike Riley to be removed from his position with PGMOL and labelled the current crop of officials as the "worst that we have seen", citing "over 20 major errors" during the Christmas period.

PGMOL would not respond directly but released statistics showing standards had improved in every available measure in the five years since Hackett left the organisation. These include accuracy on major decisions, up to 95 per cent from 94.1 per cent, on decisions in the penalty box (98 per cent) and offsides, 99 per cent compared to 92 per cent five years ago when Riley took over.

Hackett's attack was made on his website, which also sells refereeing kits and equipment and offers training courses. The PGMOL is standing firm, however, confident it has taken the right path since Hackett's departure and that it is backed up by all the statistics.