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CONCACAF announces referee reform after Gold Cup blunders

Photo credit: AFP.

Photo credit: AFP.

Controversial calls and admitted referee errors that helped Mexico win last year’s Gold Cup have led to a restructured referee department for soccer’s governing body in North America. The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced changes Wednesday after releasing a 5 1/2-month review of its referee department in the wake of last July’s Gold Cup.

CONCACAF seeks a new director of refereeing and will boost pay for referees as well as change the method of appointing officials of matches to fall in line with FIFA guidelines.

“We are committed to making the necessary improvements to our referee department to ensure it operates effectively,” CONCACAF acting general secretary Ted Howard said.

In last July’s Gold Cup, American referee Mark Geiger admitted making errors after being challenged by losing players and officials over game-changing calls during Mexico’s 2-1 semifinal win over Panama.

“This is a big robbery,” Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez said of the defeat. “It was robbery at gunpoint. It’s a very sad thing to say. We were robbed.”

That followed Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Costa Rica when El Tri scored the lone goal off a dubious penalty deep into injury time after 120 minutes.

The CONCACAF report overseen by Howard found “no clear or convincing evidence of match fixing or an intentional effort to affect the results” and said the Gold Cup decisions “could be attributed to simple mistakes, errors in positioning, and/or lack of concentration.”

CONCACAF said the appointment process for match referees “has led to mistakes, valid criticism from many stakeholders, and information leaks” and dubbed labor disputes by the referee group during the Gold Cup “an unnecessary distraction for the referees at a critical time.”

Referees had not received a pay boost from CONCACAF in recent years but will implement new financial terms for referees and other match officials.

“These changes will provide our referees, officials, and assessors with the proper structure, training, and support to carry out their responsibilities on the field,” Howard said.

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