FANS will notice a changing of the guard among match officials in the early months of the new Premier League season.
Experienced quartet Mike Dean, Martin Atkinson, Jon Moss and Kevin Friend will no longer be on the pitch while Tom Bramall is the sole new referee in the Prem.
And with the imminent departure of refs’ boss Mike Riley, a shake-up will continue to take place ahead of Howard Webb’s expected arrival in the winter.
Promoted Bramall is young at 32 but is viewed as a promising prospect following his rapid rise through the leagues.
My own refereeing journey was similar to Sheffield-based Bramall’s pathway as we both spent two seasons in the National League before moving up to the Football League.
After four seasons in the EFL where I’ve heard Championship managers rated him highly, Bramall is in the big time as the fifth ref to be promoted by the PGMOL in the last year.
The other four refs who moved up last season – Jarred Gillett, Michael Salisbury, Tony Harrington and John Brooks – were selected for just 19 games between them.
They are all still learning their trade at the highest level so why were they not trusted in more games last season to prepare? For new refs, it’s like a Championship club being promoted into the Prem, you face a sink or swim scenario.
I believe the succession planning from Riley has been poor and I hope that will improve when Webb arrives because it is staggering to lose the experience of 1,570 Prem games from Dean, Atkinson, Moss and Friend in one summer.
The Prem has gone from 22 refs to 19 and, of the remaining number, only 12 have taken charge of 100 or more matches.
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As a result the pressure on the rookies to step up and deliver will increase and leaves the league with the poorest set of officials in many a year.
Despite my fears, I believe fresh blood should always be welcomed but there is no hiding place in the Prem and a lack of experience among the new officials could make for a lively start where we will have five subs, multiball and a tweak to the offside rule over the use of a ‘deliberate play’ by a defender.