This week’s guest on our weekly Voices Of Soccer interview show is former Premier League referee Mark Halsey who has published a book authored by writer and journalist Ian Ridley entitled Added Time: Surviving Cancer, Death Threats and the Premier League.
Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey was the longest-serving full-time professional referee in the English game when he retired at the end of the 2012/13 season after a career that took in three seasons officiating in the Football League and a remarkable 14 in the Premier League. Halsey is now a refereeing pundit for BT Sport.
In the one hour interview, Halsey discusses:
• How the Premier League tried to prevent the book from being published by planting stories in the press and scaring the original book publisher from printing the book,
• Halsey’s battle with throat cancer and how he beat the life-threatening illness,
• Why and how the PGMOL’s incompetence (at the executive level) is damaging the Premier League’s standard of refereeing,
• The inefficiencies throughout the Premier League and FA refereeing system where refs work under the fear factor and are too scared to speak up,
• His relationships with top managers, and how he believes he was unfairly overlooked for the FA Cup Final,
• How Halsey has been unfairly treated, and how even his own former referee colleagues aren’t allowed to speak to him about footballing matters,
• Insight into what it’s like being a referee in the Premier League,
• And much more.
Regarding the referees working under the fear factor, Halsey said:
“I’m telling you now the Select Group of referees are very, very frightened. They’re grown men — 45, 46, 50, 51 years of age. And they won’t say ‘boo’ to the management because they’re know that [the PGMOL and/or Premier League] may take it out on them.”
Halsey delivers several damning indictments into refereeing in the Premier League, including the lack of a support structure and lack of counseling that’s available to Premier League referees who are under immense pressure, particularly in instances where they’re on the receiving end of death threats and under the microscope from the press and football supporters. Halsey was asked whether he received any backup, support or counseling from the league or PGMOL:
“Not really, no. I remember last season when I missed that horrendous challenge by Callum McManaman, Wigan versus Newcastle. It was a horrendous challenge. Obviously a player ran straight in front of me as it happened, so I didn’t have a clue what had happened.
“We had our [referee] meeting on the Tuesday [after the incident] at Burton where we get together every two weeks, and no one spoke to me.”
Halsey received death threats after he missed McManaman’s horrendous challenge on Massadio Haidara in that Wigan-Newcastle game.
Another area of concern that Halsey raises is the level of officiating in the Premier League and how qualified referees are overlooked while other inexperienced referees who are not ready for to officiate games in the top flight are being given a chance too early and are not being coached, managed or nurtured properly by PGMOL General Manager Mike Riley and PGMOL Select Group Manager Keren Barratt.
“(Referee coach) Alan Wiley does a super job with [coaching the new referees coming through], and once they leave Alan Wiley, they come under the select group manager, and for me, they’ve taken a step backwards. It’s a massive step when you come from the Football League into the Premier League. Once [Wiley] passes them over back to Keren, I think they’ve taken a step backwards. When I was on the list last season [of Premier League referees], all the referees would moan about the select group manager, about how he’s not good enough.”
One of the many eyeopening accounts by Halsey in the interview is how the PGMOL and Premier League are slow to adopt change in terms of improving refereeing, and how Major League Soccer’s referee program (under the leadership of former referee Peter Walton) is a trendsetter and is paving the way, especially regarding how key refereeing decisions are made transparent to clubs, managers, players and the supporters in USA’s top flight league.
These are just a few of the opinions and revelations that Halsey shares in the interview. Many more can be found in his book.
Halsey’s book, Added Time: Surviving Cancer, Death Threats and the Premier League, is currently available at all fine booksellers including Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble (via book order through their stores).
Hosted by Kartik Krishnaiyer, Voices Of Soccer is our weekly program that will feature exclusive interviews with remarkable people from the world of soccer. In addition to Voices of Soccer, World Soccer Talk recently launched This Week In Soccer, a weekly discussion show — and Press ‘A’ To Shoot, a weekly show focused on soccer video games, computer games and Fantasy Premier League. Plus, the EPL Talk Podcast from World Soccer Talk is released every Sunday night, which offers insight and analysis on the world’s most popular sports league.
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