The Professional Referee Organization (PRO), in conjunction with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), today announced that after six years of leadership in the U.S. and Canada, PRO General Manager Howard Webb will begin a new chapter as the first-ever PGMOL Chief Refereeing Officer in England. Webb will continue as PRO General Manager through the end of the 2022 Major League Soccer season and will be closely involved in the active search to name his successor before taking on the newly created position.
A native of England who went on to become one of the most respected officiating figures in the global game, Webb joined PRO as Video Review Operations Manager in 2017 before succeeding Peter Walton as the organization’s General Manager in January 2018. Under Webb’s guidance, PRO has gained global recognition as a leader in the match officiating space, sharing education and extensive training best practices that have supported leagues around the world through groundbreaking achievements in collaboration with MLS. The successful rollout of both the Video Assistant Referee initiative in 2017 and the Concussion Substitute initiative in 2021 each launched to positive receptions and seamless integrations into professional competition.
“It has been a great pleasure to be part of the Professional Referee Organization over the last six years,” said Webb. “I have learned so much from my time working in North America that will serve me well in my new role, and I will miss interacting with the dedicated, enthusiastic, and talented officials and support staff at PRO. Over the last few years, we have seen a growing pool of officials achieve international recognition and participate commendably in the biggest tournaments in the world. This is a testament to the program led by the outstanding team here.”
PRO officials have a strong reputation of developing outstanding officials, with six earning the honor of selection for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar among the numerous officials receiving international assignments over the span of his leadership.
During his tenure at PRO, Webb has elevated the standard of officiating, developed match officials earning international assignments, mentored globally renowned referee instructors, raised the number match officials, enhanced the multi-level pipeline with additional support staff and training resources, and increased diversity in officiating at all levels of the professional game in the U.S. and Canada.
As PRO General Manager, Webb’s responsibilities include identifying, training, assessing, and assigning match officials in numerous North American competitions, including: Major League Soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League, MLS NEXT Pro, and the United Soccer League. In addition, Webb oversees the considerable growth of the organization’s PRO2 development group that filters into the senior match official roster.
“I have every confidence that the excellent leadership team at PRO will continue to strive to deliver the very best support required for growth, and they will work hard to match the ambitions of the leagues which PRO serves as they all continue to expand,” said Webb. “I would like to record my thanks to everyone who has helped me during my time at PRO. The desire of the group to learn and improve is second to none, and when the time comes, I know it will be hard to say goodbye. I will forever cherish the people and the organization’s work to improve the standard of officiating. The future is bright.”
As Webb prepares to begin a new chapter back in his homeland, his new position as PGMOL Chief Refereeing Officer in England will include oversight of officials provided across all English Premier League, English Football League and Football Association competitions, as well overseeing their pipeline of officials that includes 79 full-time professionals in the Select Group of Select Group 1 Referees, Select Group 1 Assistant Referees, Select Group 2 Referees and women’s Select Group officials.
Prior to Webb joining PRO, Webb oversaw the development of referees as technical director for the PGMOL. He also served as the Saudi Arabian Football Federation director of referees.
On the field, Howard Webb remains the only referee to officiate both a UEFA Champions League Final and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year (2010). The world-renowned former FIFA referee oversaw more than 500 combined matches in the English Premier League and Football League during his 25-year career.
Over the last few years, we have seen a growing pool of officials achieve international recognition and participate commendably in the biggest tournaments in the world. This is a testament to the program led by the outstanding team here.
Jim Brown, Chairman of PRO, said: “As we prepare for the conclusion of our 10th season as an organization, it is with a mixture of great pride and disappointment that we will be losing the respected leadership of Howard.
“By the time he leaves he will have been the general manager for half of PRO’s existence, and he has substantially impacted all areas of our activities in that time. From improving the education, welfare, and training of our top-class officials to best prepare them for the rigors of domestic and international games through to supporting the evolution of a talent identification network that will prepare us for the future, his input and vision will continue to benefit PRO long after he has moved home to England.
“He will be sure to add great value to the standard of officiating in the English Premier League and will always be welcomed with open arms by the refereeing community whenever he is in North America. We thank him for his significant contribution and wish him well as we look forward to the next chapter of our growth under the direction of a new leader.”
Cindy Parlow Cone, U.S. Soccer President, said: “We’re very thankful to Howard for all his contributions to PRO and the American soccer landscape. His leadership and vast experience were incredibly valuable over the past few years, and we wish him all the best as he returns home.”
Don Garber, Major League Soccer Commissioner, said: “We could not have asked for a better leader than Howard Webb the past four years. When MLS worked with U.S. Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association to form PRO, we knew best-in-class leadership was critical to improving the quality of refereeing. The foundation was built, and when Howard came on board, he brought experience from refereeing at the highest level and had a smart and steady hand in elevating the entire professional officiating program for our league and the sport. With six MLS referees selected as match officials for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, our referees are now recognized among the world’s best.
“As Howard prepares to return home to his family in England, PRO has a strong senior leadership team in place, and we look forward to supporting PRO on the search for his successor. We thank Howard for his contributions to our league, and we wish him the best in his new role overseeing professional referees in England.”
Jessica Berman, NWSL Commissioner, said: “On behalf of the NWSL, I want to thank Howard for his significant contributions to our league’s success and congratulate him on his pending move home. Howard has been a partner, an advisor and a friend as we continue to work to ensure that officiating in the NWSL is as elite as the players on the pitch. I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made and confident that the plans we’ve put in place, with Howard’s help and under his direction, will pay off in the days, months and years ahead. And my congratulations to our friends in England for gaining an invaluable talent in the officiating profession.”