Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) is looking at an interesting way to improve refereeing in England. The body responsible for soccer officiating in the country has been under constant fire in recent months. This includes a host of issues, mostly the application of VAR, throughout the current campaign.

Howard Webb, PGMOL’s chief refereeing officer, has attempted to combat pressure on his referees by appearing on the television show Match Officials: Mic’d Up. In the series, the former Premier League referee discusses recent major decisions in English top-flight matches. The move, however, has not exactly eased concerns about the state of officiating in the league.

Nevertheless, there are now reports claiming that Webb plans on hiring new English refereeing recruits. Not only does PGMOL want to refresh their current group of officials, but they want to do so with former players. 12 recently retired professional soccer players expressed interest in becoming referees. Webb likes the idea and is currently working on ways to fast-track the former stars into their new roles.

News outlet claims thousands of refs have quit due to abuse

The decision comes as Mail Sport has launched a campaign called ‘Stop Abusing Referees.’ The news outlet is attempting to reduce abuse by coaches, players, and fans towards referees. According to the report, 10,000 soccer officials have left their roles in the last five years. The report attributes the departures to mistreatment on the job.

One of these referees to step away from the sport is Rhys Baldwin. The former ref spoke to the publication on his decision to end his career as an official. “I’ve had knives pulled on me. I’ve had people try and get me fired from my job,” stated Baldwin.

“I’ve had my car keyed. I’ve been stopped on the street and screamed at for a good 15 minutes in front of all my friends. That was when I was 16, I had that happen.”

Baldwin’s story is an extreme case and the now 25-year-old former referee never officiated in the Premier League. However, the news outlet also wants top-flight managers to ease their aggressive verbal outbursts towards officials.

Former players serving as referees may help continued abuse

Football Association (FA) and Premier League officials have also attempted to clamp down on abuse as well. The organizations introduced new rules before the current campaign to issue more yellow cards for dissent during games. Fans of the division have certainly noticed the increase in cautions regarding verbal abuse.

Prior to this past weekend’s Premier League matchups, Fulham has recorded the most yellow cards for complaining this season with 11. Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur tied for second with eight yellow cards. Despite receiving plenty of heat for his comments regarding referees, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta only picked up two bookings this season. This is less than a host of top-flight managers including Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Erik ten Hag.

Premier League managers, players, and fans will be hoping that the introduction of former players as referees will help the overall officiating in the league. Getting serious abuse out of the game is a step in the right direction. However, something also has to be done regarding the subpar officiating in the league as well.