With the conclusion of Howard Webb’s sixth and final season at the Professional Referee Organization, the Englishman has become the Chief Refereeing Officer for Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) in his home country.
While the role is the first of its kind at PGMOL, embarking on an uncharted opportunity is not unfamiliar to Webb, who joined PRO in 2017 as Manager of Video Assistant Referee Operations.
He developed one of the first video review programs for a league anywhere in the world before succeeding Peter Walton as General Manager at the start of 2018.
“The organization was five years old when I joined, and lots of groundwork had been laid which I wanted to build on,” said Webb.
“We set goals to deliver a solid VAR program, to provide the platform for our officials to continue being successful and exceed expectations internationally, and to have a credible officiating program that was as good as anything else in the world.
“We were one of the first to use video review so people from all over the globe were watching how we delivered it and whether it was a success. It was satisfying that leagues have since been asking for our advice and opinions on it.
“I’m proud our values and principles have sustained through that time implementing video review; we’ve not chopped and changed who we are but kept things consistent from day one.”
Webb leaves PRO with six officials having returned from a hugely successful FIFA World Cup in Qatar – all of whom were assigned across the final four games of the tournament, video review preparing for its sixth season in MLS and first in NWSL, and a program that will allow the organization to continue growing into the future.
“We achieved our goals, which shows the world that we have a program that delivers good performances and can sit beside the top leagues in the world.
“Being credible among the best is a testament to the team we’ve put in place.
“We also supported the careers of so many new referees who have come through the PRO2 development pathway. There is lots of home-grown talent in our increasingly diverse roster, including a mix of genders, ages, backgrounds, and experience levels.”
There’s a buzz over here about where the game is going, and everyone at PRO has played their part in that.
North America has provided Webb with a new and exciting challenge – not just the range of temperatures, climates, altitude, and long-distance traveling that impacts the referee program, but delivering quality education to support a fast-growing soccer country.
“There’s a buzz over here about where the game is going, and everyone at PRO has played their part in that. It will only get better as we move closer to [the next men’s FIFA World Cup in] 2026.
“I’m going to miss that, and the groups I’ve worked with; the officials, the staff, the work I do with MLS and their competition department. Jeff Agoos and his team, as well as Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s executive staff, have a genuine desire to make the game better and expand its impact, and have all been great supporters of our program.
“While it will be good to be back home, I’ll look back at my time in the US with real cherish and fondness of the opportunity that I’ve had to be a part of that story.”
Read more: NWSL to implement video review next season