17 referees, 37 assistant referees and 10 Video Assistant Referees appointed for next phase of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

The FIFA Referees Committee has selected 17 referees, 37 assistant referees and 10 Video Assistant Referees for the final phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Given the number of matches left and the teams that have qualified for the next round, the number of referees has been reduced. Appointed for the next phase are:

AFC: FAGHANI Alireza (IRN); SHUKRALLA Nawaf Abdulla (BHR)





UEFA: CAKIR Cuneyt (TUR); KUIPERS Bjorn (NED); MATEU LAHOZ Antonio (ESP); MAZIC Milorad (SRB); ROCCHI Gianluca (ITA); SKOMINA Damir (SVN)

Video Assistant Referees


UEFA: DANKERT Bastian (GER); DIAS SOARES Artur (POR); GIL Pawel (POL); IRRATI Massimiliano (ITA); MAKKELIE Danny (NED); ORSATO Daniele (ITA); VALERI Paolo (ITA); ZWAYER Felix (GER)

The FIFA Referees Committee would like to thank all the match officials that have been involved in the 2018 FIFA World Cup so far for their commitment and professionalism.

Referee designations - 2018 FIFA World Cup Matches 56 and 57 (6 July 2018)

URUGUAY - FRANCE (Quarter-finals)

Referee: Nestor PITANA (ARG)
Assistant Referee 1: Hernan MAIDANA (ARG)
Assistant Referee 2: Juan Pablo BELATTI (ARG)
Fourth Official: Alireza FAGHANI (IRN)
Reserve Assistant: Reza SOKHANDAN (IRN)

BRAZIL - BELGIUM (Quarter-finals)

Referee: Milorad MAZIC (SRB)
Assistant Referee 1: Milovan RISTIC (SRB)
Assistant Referee 2: Dalibor DJURDJEVIC (SRB)
Fourth Official: Jair MARRUFO (USA)
Reserve Assistant: Corey ROCKWELL (USA)

Referee designations - 2018 FIFA World Cup Matches 58 and 59 (7 July 2018)

SWEDEN - ENGLAND (Quarter-finals)

Referee: Bjorn KUIPERS (NED)
Assistant Referee 1: Sander VAN ROEKEL (NED)
Assistant Referee 2: Erwin ZEINSTRA (NED)
Fourth Official: Antonio MATEU LAHOZ (ESP)
Reserve Assistant: Pau CEBRIAN (ESP)

RUSSIA - CROATIA (Quarter-finals)

Referee: Sandro RICCI (BRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Emerson DE CARVALHO (BRA)
Assistant Referee 2: Marcelo VAN GASSE (BRA)
Fourth Official: Janny SIKAZWE (ZAM)
Reserve Assistant: Jerson DOS Santos (ANG)

Source: FIFA

Sadio Mané - Red Card Interpretation

The Barclays Premier League is the one that keeps on giving, week after week. No sooner have we gotten over one problem when another one comes hurtling along the line. Last weekend was no different and thanks to referees Jon Moss and Mike Jones we had plenty to chat about in the bars and clubs around the length and breath of the country. It was not the fact that these officials had been at the centre of controversy over the weekend, but in the way everyone interpreted their decisions.


Jon Moss took control of arguably the biggest game of the weekend between Manchester City and Liverpool and the fall out from his decision to send off Liverpool's Mane for a challenge on the Manchester City goalkeeper is still going on. As a rule I very rarely have much time for the opinions of ex footballers when it comes to refereeing decisions as in my opinion they have not got an idea about applying the laws of the game. So when Jon Moss sent off Mane, cue the usual moaning as to what most of them saw as a bad decision. In fact this is where there is a strange twist to the story, as in my opinion on the day Jon Moss got it drastically wrong as well. As I was watching the game live on TV like most fans I thought to myself that it was a terrible decision to show a red card. In my opinion the player was only going for the ball and if we can not challenge for the ball anymore we may as well just pack the game in, I actually felt at the time that at worst it deserved a yellow card. The difference with this decision was that the challenge had endangered the City goalkeeper,s safety and that is why Jon sent off Mane. The Liverpool player must surely have felt hard done by, but that is the way the modern game has gone and in fairness we have to be thankful as it gives players better protection. A good friend of mine who is a former referee in South Africa, Errol Sweeney, got slaughtered on social media in the aftermath of the game when he posted that he thought it should only have been a yellow card as well. The laws of the game are laid down in front of people who play the game, but the most important thing is how to apply them. Jon Moss got it spectacularly correct on Saturday, not like quite a few of us who got it wrong or maybe it was our interpretation that was wrong.

If you fast forward from the incident that happened on Saturday and look at the one that happened in the Swansea and Newcastle game on Sunday you will see a totally  different outcome for a similar challenge. The referee in charge of this game was Mike Jones and in my opinion he is an accident waiting to happen every time he enters the field of play. Over the years Mike has given us some great entertainment with the decisions he has got horribly wrong. On Sunday, Mike had a tricky incident to deal with when a high boot by Newcastle,s Matt Ritchie caught a Swansea player around the head area, but it was only punished with a yellow card. The challenge was very similar to the one involving Mane on Saturday but on this ocasssion the colour of the card was different. The fact that the Swansea defender did not hit the ground or indeed need medical attention probably had a huge impact on Mike making his mind up as to what to do. I am not saying on this occasion that Mike was wrong but I also feel he was not correct either.

Both of these games brought about different outcomes for similar decisions, something that needs to be sorted out. Interpretation of the laws of the game are vital if the officials are to become more consistent and the only way they can get these big calls correct is to discuss them at meetings and work shops so as everyone is singing from the same songbook, but this will take a great deal of work and understanding. I do not see consistency improving anytime soon.

By David Meier

Ridiculous Refereeing

Every season brings along new problems for every referee. At the start of each campaign the referees have been given new instructions for any law changes that may have occurred during the summer break. The most important thing from a refereeing point of view is that when you are given those guidelines it is how each official applys them. Different referees pick up on these instructions and when they apply them differently it causes all sorts of problems. I have always been of the opinion that a referee should rarely be seen in a game, if the viewer does not see the official for the ninety minutes you can be sure that official has had a good game. So as we head back into domestic football next weekend after the international break, what silliness has caught my eye in the first couple of games of this season.

One referee who certainly loves the limelight is Mike Dean. There are times when I see him officiate and he makes my blood boil, he comes up with some bizarre decisions and generally has been known to ruin a game. The last round of fixtures in the Barclays Premier League saw Mike take control of the Bournemouth versus Manchester City game and true to form he was centre of attention once again. A game that saw nine yellow cards and one red was the talk of the media circus on the Saturday evening. I do not know how he does it, but Mike seems to apply the philosophy that every time he blows for a foul in the game a yellow card must follow, it is an awful way to referee. In my opinion in this game Mike missed two blatant red cards when he did not give Kompany and Ake their marching orders, by failing to do so he gave himself loads of problems that could so easily have been avoided.

The way the game was refereed was very poor and to be perfectly honest officiating like this should not be allowed happen again. I have always stated that referees need to be consistent with their decisions and if they fail to be it can be  frustrating for players and managers. Mike Dean,s decision to show Raheem Sterling a second yellow card for celebrating in the crowd after an injury time winner for City was laughable. It was a goal that was going to win the game for his side and it came so late in the match you could understand the City players celebration, for god sake if we kill celebrating we may as well kill the game. Bournemouth,s  Charlie Daniels did exactly the same when he scored but no card followed his celebrations. It was as if Mike wanted all the attention on himself right at the very end of the game and by sending Sterling off and he got his moment. By the letter of the law Raheem was wrong when he went into the crowd as the players this season have been warned about this sort of behaviour, but with Raheem already on a yellow card a good referee would have turned a blind eye and not brought problems on himself.

I am sure as we go forward this season we will see loads of mistakes made by officials and I can understand that, but what I can not sit back and watch is referee,s trying to hog the limelight and be the centre of attention. It is a trend a few referee's have started and to be perfectly honest the game can do without these performing seals. As I mentioned earlier, in my opinion a referee should not be seen throughout a game, the only time I want to see the official is when he is stamping his authority on the game for bad behaviour by the players. I do hope we see the cream of refereeing come to the top this season as I do not want to be writing about idiots with whistles for the next nine months. So let us see what the next round of games bring, a lot of controversy I expect.

Yahoo! Daily Fantasy Football Game Week 3

It is game week 3 and the first two games of the season have already given some early indications of what we can expect. Manchester United run out 0-4 winners again, this time away to Swansea City and they look like the early favourites.

Chelsea got their season right back on track, as the defending champions beat last year’s runner up 1-2 away to Tottenham Hotspur last week, who still seem to be adjusting to life at Wembley. Elsewhere the other top-4 contenders endured mixed fortunes. Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 1-0, but still have some work to do whilst Arsenal lost 1-0 away to Stoke City. Manchester City and Everton played out a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Monday Night to round off the week 2 fixtures.

Newly-promoted, Huddersfield Town once again impressed, keeping a second consecutive clean sheet, beating Newcastle United 1-0 at home. Fellow promoted-side, Brighton & Hove Albion made the now tough trip to Leicester City and failed to find the net again losing 2-0 to the 2015/16 Premier League Champions.

Two more away wins came in the form of Watford beating Bournemouth 0-2 whilst West Bromwich Albion kept their 100% record and another clean sheet, beating Burnley 0-1.

Southampton remain unbeaten, improving on their 0-0 draw in week 1, beating West Ham United 3-2. The Hammers were down to 10-men after 33 minutes as Marko Arnautovic was given his marching orders, but it was West Ham’s other summer signing, Javier Hernandez who almost saved his blushes. Hernandez scored on the stroke of half-time and scored again in the 74th minute to make it 2-2 before Charlie Austin ruined the afternoon scoring a 90th minute penalty for the home side, their second of the day.

Stand-out performers in Gameweek 2 include striker Hernandez (26.05 points), Sadio Mane (22.1 points), Marcos Alonso (23.6 points) and Jack Butland (19 points).

Mane and Alonso were both mentioned as stud options last week whilst value play, Jonas Lossl scored a very respectable 17.50 points as he kept another clean sheet in the Huddersfield goal.

Onto this week and who you should be putting into your line-ups ahead of Gameweek 3.


The Stud:

Thibaut Courtois (£15)

Thibaut Courtois looks set to busy again this week, as Chelsea welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge and the Belgian will be looking to keep his first clean sheet of the season.

Last week he made six saves and conceded once against Tottenham Hotspur which was enough for him to accrue 11.00 fantasy points.

Should Chelsea tighten up at the back this week and keep their first clean sheet, Courtois could well be the highest scoring keeper this week, as Everton will no doubt get some efforts in on goal even if they can’t score.

At £15 he is available at a discount in comparison to David De Gea (£17), Ederson (£16) and Hugo Lloris (£16) and may well see the most action of the four, increasing his point-scoring potential.

The Value Play:

Lukasz Fabianski (£13)

Swansea travel to London this weekend to play Crystal Palace and whilst they haven’t been in the best form themselves their opponents are really struggling.

Palace got their season off to a terrible start, losing 0-3 at home to Huddersfield before travelling to Anfield where they lost 1-0 to Liverpool. Whilst that is to be expected away to a top-4 contender, it was the manner in which they lost that raises concern.

Wayne Hennessey had to make 12 saves at Anfield to keep the score respectable and going forward they lacked any real quality. They did improve on their showing against Huddersfield, at least defensively but they still only took 4 shots, with 1 on target. Christian Benteke squandered a good chance to score after linking up with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the Belgian is off to a frustrating start to the season.

Whilst I expect Palace to improve on their first home performance, I still think they are getting used to life under Frank De Boer and with the influential Wilfried Zaha still rehabbing from his knee injury, Palace’s attacking problems will continue going forward.

It may be hard to see Swansea keeping a clean sheet after losing 0-4 at home to Manchester United last week but they kept one against Southampton on the opening day and will be hoping for another at Selhurst Park, with Palace still looking for their first league goal of the season.

Both sides won in the cup this week, with Palace securing a 2-1 home victory against Ipswich Town, however Swansea secured a 1-4 win on the road against MK Dons and with both Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham getting on the scoresheet, their confidence should be higher coming into this game. If Swansea can put Palace under pressure, they could get an early goal and then shut up shop, and mark danger-man, Benteke out of the game.

Swansea have lost just one of their last twelve games against Crystal Palace, providing them with a mental edge that may just see them pick up their first win of the season.

The Alternative:

Heurelho Gomes (£14)

Heurelho Gomes and Watford have got off to a good start in the league, taking four points from a possible six and he will be looking to keep a clean sheet against a Brighton side who have failed to score a goal in the league so far this season.

With Watford the home side, you would expect them to be on the front foot and unless Brighton really take the game to them, it could be routine for The Hornets, in front of their own fans.

The last game at Vicarage Road saw them concede three goals in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool, but Liverpool are a potent attacking force whereas Brighton seem to be far from that at this level. Brighton could of course come out all guns blazing, after defending so much against Manchester City and Leicester but it remains to be seen whether they have attacking players who can really perform in the top-flight.

Watford did well to keep a clean sheet when they travelled to Bournemouth last weekend and will be hoping to do the same on home soil this week against what appear to be inferior opposition.


The Stud:

Marcos Alonso (£18)

Until he stops totting up serious points from defence, he is a must-start for me. Whilst a clean sheet may not be expected this week, as Chelsea face a visit from Everton, Alonso should still put points up on the board.

Scoring two goals last week seriously bolstered his points tally but I still think he gives you a safe floor score, even if he doesn’t go near that 20-point mark again this week. He is such a threat in the final-third that he looks a good prospect for a goal or an assist each week, taking the pressure off a good defensive performance, at least in a fantasy sense.

Whilst Everton are a good side and Wayne Rooney has been in good form in front of goal, scoring in each of the first two games, Chelsea are still the superior side and may well welcome Eden Hazard back to the fray this week, which improves them further.

If Hazard does miss out again then like last week, Alonso will be a big feature in the final third once again, thus adding to his scoring potential further.

The Value Play:

Andrew Robertson (£14)

Liverpool kept their first and only clean sheet of the season against Crystal Palace last week and Andrew Robertson started at left-back in that game, playing well on his league debut for his new club.

Alberto Moreno has played the other three games this season, when Liverpool have conceded three against Watford and three goals over their two-legged Championship League qualifier with Hoffenheim.

With Moreno struggling again in mid-week, now is surely the time to implement Robertson into the side on a regular basis. If he starts v Arsenal he will look to get at Hector Bellerin and the rest of the Arsenal defence and get some crosses into the box for the likes of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to feast on.

Robertson put up 13.65 fantasy points in Liverpool’s home win v Palace last week and whilst it may be harder to add another clean sheet, he should offer plenty going forward again, in what should be a free-flowing attacking game.

Whilst it is a battle of two unsettled defences and goals are expected, Robertson should have the chance to chalk up some points once again even without a clean sheet. Arsenal are unlikely to go two weeks in a row without scoring, with Stoke frustrating them last week, so a clean sheet isn’t a safe assumption here, but with Robertson likely to be busy all game, his scoring potential is high.

The Alternative:

Kieran Trippier (£15)

Kieran Trippier completed his return from injury, playing 89 minutes in Tottenham’s 1-2 loss to Chelsea at Wembley last week and should now become a fantasy favourite once again.

Tottenham are now playing with a back-three in the centre, with Trippier and Ben Davies/Danny Rose in as wing-back’s on the either flank, giving Trippier a license to roam forward.

Trippier has always been known for his crossing ability and as he should now be in the starting line-up every week, thanks to the departure of Kyle Walker, he should continue to grow and impress for the rest of the season.

With the potential up-side of a clean sheet against a Burnley side who don’t travel well, Trippier has a good chance to score some good points both in an attacking and defensive sense this week.

Burnley had an awful away record last season, winning just once and losing a staggering 14 times, and on away form they finished 19th in the table. Their excellent home form ensured they finished 9th in the home table, thanks to their 10 home wins and 3 draws in their 19 games. They finished 16th in the table overall, but this just proves how much better they were at home last season and with a tough away game this week I expect them to revert back to the form of last season as they find themselves on their travels again.

At £15 Trippier is cheaper then Davies (£17) on the other flank and has every chance of being as effective now that he is injury-free.


The Stud:

Christian Eriksen (£27)

Despite rife speculation of a move to Barcelona, Christian Eriksen is still part of this very impressive Tottenham Hotspur side and whilst his side suffered a setback last week against Chelsea, I think they can get back to winning ways against Burnley this weekend.

Tottenham have of course got to get over the Wembley hoodoo but that will come the more they play there and I don’t want to get too hung up on them losing last week. Chelsea always raise their game against Tottenham, such is the rivalry and this week the latter will be hoping to prove they are too good for Sean Dyche’s men.

Burnley of course got that huge win at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, beating Chelsea 2-3 but they were however brought back down to earth when they hosted West Brom last week, losing 0-1.

Eriksen played brilliantly on the opening day of the season against Newcastle, setting up two goals, whilst taking five shots of his own (3 on target) and hee can repeat this sort of effort this week against Burnley.

The Danish international scored 12 goals in all competitions last season and he can get off the mark in this new season, in a nice match-up this week.


The Value Play:

Nathaniel Chalobah (£11)

Nathaniel Chalobah was named in Gareth Southgate’s 28-man England squad for the next two games, and will hope to get the nod in one of the fixtures to earn his first England cap.

With the England news the youngster should be in a buoyant mood as his side host Brighton, who have failed to make an impact on the Premier League so far this season.

Watford have secured 4 points in the first two league games, with Chalobah playing a large part in both games. Whilst he only managed to put up 2.45 points against Liverpool in 90 minutes he did enough to secure 6.50 points against in Bournemouth in the 89 minutes he played and he can greatly surpass that this week.

Chalobah took 5 shots against Bournemouth, two of which were on target and it would have been more had Harry Arter not shouted “leave it”, leading Chalobah to believe one of his team-mates wanted the ball when he was just about to pull the trigger himself.

A home game against Brighton should give Chalobah a license to get more involved in the final-third and if he can’t get on the scoresheet himself, hopefully he will be able to provide an assist. At £11 he can certainly secure you some vital points for a bargain price.

The Alternative:

Henrik Mkhitaryan (£25)

Despite showing flashes of brilliance last season, it was by no means plain sailing for Henrik Mkhitaryan in his debut season with Manchester United but the early signs this season are largely positive.

Often played out wide last season, a positional change in the opening two games has seen him play in the No.10 role behind Romelu Lukaku, as he did behind Pierre Emerick Aubameyang when playing for Borussia Dortmund. Although we are still just two games in the new season, it looks as though the Armenian is flourishing in his new role for his current club so it is time to take notice of him from a fantasy perspective.

In their opening two Premier League games this season, United have run out 4-0 winners both home and away and Mkhitaryan has been a big part of that. He has provided four assists (two in each game) so far this season, so it looks like he will be heavily involved in Manchester United’s attacking-play in his second season with the club.

He will be hoping to turn from provider to scorer this week and get himself off the mark against Leicester City, as he looks to improve on the four goals he scored last year. Primarily the focus though will still remain on his creative side, as he looks to supply £75m-man, Lukaku.

Leicester are United’s toughest test this season, with the 2015/16 season champions bouncing back from their narrow 4-3 opening day defeat to Arsenal, with a 2-0 home win against Brighton last weekend, so the home side will need to be on top of their game to ensure a third straight league victory.

With the opponents in mind, Mkhitaryan will hopefully find another gear from his opening two games and improve again, making him a valuable fantasy option.


The Stud:

Javier Hernandez (£25)

West Ham’s biggest signing this window got off the mark last week, scoring two against Southampton and he can do the same this week when they visit Newcastle.

Newcastle have got off to a dismal start this season, conceding three goals over the first two games without scoring and they also lost 2-3 in extra-time to Championship side, Nottingham Forest in the week.

With such a leaky defence on show at the moment, Hernandez should be able to exploit this weakness and ensure he keeps his goal-scoring efforts, on this tough away run for West Ham. The Hammers have not played at home yet this season due to the athletics at the London Stadium and won’t play there now until they welcome Huddersfield on 11/09.

West Ham desperately need to steady the ship and get a result before the club becomes more unsettled and calls for Slaven Bilic’s sacking ring around East London again.

Hernandez gives West Ham that spark they have been lacking for so long and he is genuinely one of the best strikers in the division, when in-form and should show that against a very fragile Newcastle side.

The Value Play:

Shinji Okazaki (£15)

Shinji Okazaki has been a nuisance for defenders since he arrived in the Premier League and he has got off to a good start the campaign, scoring against in both games against Arsenal and Brighton.

Whilst Okazaki has been subbed off in both games and aside from his goal in each game hasn’t offered much fantasy-wise, he is worth chancing this week at a bargain price.

The Japanese forward has scored with both his shots on target this season and has only taken four shots in total. If he can get some more efforts on goal, he could rack up a decent points tally, especially if he adds a third goal of the season.

At the lower-end of the salary cap there are not many striking options this week, but Okazaki at least provides you with a player who has found the net twice this season, even with limited chances.

The Alternative:

Anthony Martial (£22)

Just like Okazaki, Anthony Martial has taken advantage of his limited shots on goal, the difference being Martial has only been on the pitch for 25 minutes over the first two games.

Martial came on for the last ten minutes against West Ham in week one and provided a goal and an assist in that time, as he looked to force his way into the starting XI. A week later, the Frenchman found himself on the bench again, with Jose Mourinho opting for Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata in the wide areas instead.

Despite finding himself on the bench again, Martial came on as a sub and in the 15 minutes he was on the pitch once again found the net for his second goal of the season.

He is making Mourinho’s life very difficult at the moment, almost forcing his manager to give him the nod from the off this week and if he does get handed a start, it would provide him with a chance to prove his worth once again.

That VAR Debate

Over the past couple of weeks you have all probably watched the 2017 Confederations Cup played in Russia and everyone also  had an opportunity to look at the new Video Assisted Referee's or VAR as it is commonly known, in action. This new addition to our beautiful game was used in the tournament and it was great to see it action and how was it going to work. It gave all of the sceptic's including myself, the chance to run the rule over something that is new in our game and if the men upstairs in suits have there way, it will become a permanent feature. The introduction of this new technology has been long overdue and the reason it has been brought in is because players are continously cheating and have added a new dimension to their game by trying to con referees. This new technology is now in place to help the referees sort out the major issues in the match that happen.

The system was put in place to have a look at four specific areas and they are, Goals and whether there was a violation during the build up, Penalty decisions, Red Card decisions and Mistaken identity in awarding a red or yellow card. I felt during during the tournament it was very confusing when the system was called upon, the stopping of the game to view many incidents was very annoying. I saw in one game an incident review for a goal that had been scored, the officials went back to have a look at a phase of play that had long passed before the ball was finally put in the net. The goal was eventually disallowed for an offside but in my opinion it was utterly ridiculous to go back so far to review the incident. There was also an incident in a game where a referee sent off the wrong player and on reviewing his decision he returned onto the pitch and eventually got the correct offender. The only annoying part about this incident was the referee wandering around the pitch to find the player he was looking for, simply embarrassing. The final itself was not without controversy, when a Chilean player clearly elbowed his opponent in the face and although the referee reviewed the incident he only produced a yellow card. In that incident the referee had two opportunities to get things correct and in my opinion made a mess of it.

It is very hard to be critical of a system that is been trialled but if we are to bring this into our beautiful game we need to smooth off the rough edges. In my opinion it has led to lazy refereeing because these top officials should be getting the big calls correct, there are no excuses for top FIFA men not to perform. It is as if the attitude now is that if they miss a big decision they have the luxury of reviewing the incident on VAR, this is leading to lazy refereeing in my opinion. Without any doubt if this system is to go forward we need to see officials from the same country taking control of the games. The guys who are up in the box need to know how the referee on the pitch manages a game. If they work together on a regular basis they will know each other inside out and know how each other tick and this will lead to the VAR system been used in a more tidier way. No disrespect here, but a referee sitting upstairs in a nice cosy room from Uzbekistan, can simply be not instructing a referee from say Germany, Italy or Spain as to what he thinks the referee might have missed in the game, after all he would not have refereed at the level those guys do.

So all in all it VAR has been very interesting, but I do feel there is a lot of work to be done before we can use it the World Cup Finals next year. It would be great if the officials can pull this together and finally get the big decisions correct, but let us also not forget that this system was brought in because the modern day players cheat and there is no question about that. I hope when it all comes together that we are singing the praises of VAR and that is all the supporters want.


Clattenburg Shows The Premier League a Red Card

It was announced quite recently that referee Mark Clattenburg is to step down as a Premier League official and take his talent to Saudi Arabia. Mark is moving to the Arab state to take up a role as boss of their referees. It is a role that has been vacated by another former Premier League official Howard Webb. The difference between Howard,s role and the new one that Mark has taken up, is the fact that Mark will be expected to officiate at games as well. The Saudi Arabian,s could not have got a better guy to take up the role. It is without doubt in my opinion, that over the past couple of seasons Mark has been the best referee in the World. I would be able to count on one hand the amount of mistakes he has made during games and this is what makes him so special. The reason behind that last statement  is because all officials make mistakes, but the top guys make the least. Last season Mark was the man who refereed the FA Cup Final, European Champions League Final and to cap a brilliant year he was also the man picked to take charge of the European Championship Final in France. These appointments were given to him as the men in charge of appointing referees to such games knew they would be safe in his hands. Let us not forget that he was also awarded the ultimate accolade when he was named World Referee of the year. It is a big disappointment for me to see Mark leave as I always loved to see him take charge of a game. The reason he is leaving is quite sad I believe, it has been reported that he has become disillusioned with the amount of support that Premier League officials are getting from their bosses and that has to be a right dig at Mike Reilly. No matter how good a referee Mark Clattenburg is, he would be well advised to remember it is the Premier League  that has helped him become the good official that he turned out to be,  as he heads off to the Saudi Arabian sunshine.

Now that the best referee in the Barclays Premier League is to move on, we have to look at who can replace him. Mike Reilly must be having sleepless nights as there is only one guy who comes anywhere near Mark and that is Martin Atkinson. There is no doubt that there will be a huge void left behind and it needs to be filled. Most people would agree with me that this season so far has been awful for officials and Kevin Friend was guilty of a disastrous display in the Manchester United and Bournemouth game. That game should have been an easy appointment but he had an awful performance. Mike Reilly needs to fast track someone up the ladder very fast so as controversies like the one at Old Trafford does not happen. Every top league needs at least four strong officials and sadly the Barclays Premier League falls way short on that criteria in my opinion. Between now and the end of this season I expect Martin Atkinson to get a lot of the top games, but this is not fair on him either as it leaves him open to huge criticism if things go wrong. It is now time that Mike Reilly and his team get their act together and get themselves a better quality of referee who can do it on a weekly basis.

I will miss Mark Clattenburg refereeing but not like Mike Reilly will, he no longer has the safety of knowing that appointing Mark to a game will end up controversy free. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Clatts all the best for his future and I hope things will work out him in his new venture. It now falls on the guys that are left behind to step up to the plate and take on the mantle of top referee in the country. The way they have performed so far this season is poor as I mentioned earlier and it could be a long time before we see the quality that Mark Clattenburg brought to a game when he was in charge.

By David Meier

Refereeing in The Modern Game

Over the years I have seen many top referees perform at the top level in various leagues. The likes of Philip Don, Keith Hackett, Pier Luigi Collina, Dermott Gallagher, Sandor Puhl, John Carpenter, Mario Van Der Ende and Jan Keizer have long since retired from the game but have left everlasting memories for all of us who love the part of the game which is called refereeing. When I think back to when these guys officiated I am reminded that they very rarely made mistakes and controversy was never really seen. The story in today's game is totally different and disappointing in my opinion. I have often asked myself how has it become so difficult and the answer that keeps coming back to me is the involvement on a huge scale by TV. Back in the day when all the guys I have mentioned were officiating there were not so many cameras in the grounds and pundits were not able to review things from every angle. Now I am not saying the guys back then got off lightly but at least they did not have to put up with been hammered week in and week out by former players who were sitting in warm studios analysing games. Football as we know moves on and over the years has got a lot faster and far more technical, a referees life has become so difficult these days as many players and coaches advocate winning at all costs. For my column this week I would like to have a look at two performances in the Barclay's Premier League. The men in question are Michael Oliver and Mike Jones who took charge of the Manchester United against Liverpool game and the clash in Wales between Swansea and Arsenal.

Mark Clattenburg in my opinion and indeed many others is the best referee in the world at the moment. I was rather surprised that he was not put in charge of the Manchester United game. The game was awarded to Michael Oliver and it made my Sunday much more interesting as I sat down to see not only how the game would go, but to see what sort of performance Michael would put in. What you have to remember about this actual fixture is the fact that it is played in a white hot atmosphere. It is imperative that the referee keeps a lid on things and shows himself to be in total control, this game can actually destroy a referee if it goes wrong. I need not have worried because in my opinion Michael had a brilliant game. From the moment he blew his first whistle Michael was in total control and let the players know it. His coolness to keep a lid on things was the making of his game. There were not a lot of big issues to call in the game but his decision to award Liverpool a penalty after Pogba handled was spot on. It was a brave call to make at Old Trafford but in my opinion it was the correct one. If I was to point out his only error it was when United equalised, Valencia was clearly in an offside position but Michael's assistant failed to flag. This can be so annoying for a referee who is having a blinder only to be let down by one of his team. In fairness the officials got away with it and I am glad they did, as in my opinion this was probably one of the best refereeing performances of the season.

Another referee who has come under the microscope this season has been Mike Jones. Unfortunately for Mike, controversy seems to follow him around and he does not help himself by adding fuel to an already hot fire by awarding some of the most strangest of decisions. Last Saturday week Mike took charge of the Swansea and Arsenal game. In the game he turned down a huge penalty call for Swansea and in my opinion on this occasion he got it correct. A lot of people will disagree with me including Swansea manager Paul Clement, but by not awarding the spot kick Mike highlighted an area where TV pundits have failed to address. When Ki Sung made contact with Arsenal defender Koscielny in the penalty area the official was correct not to award a spot kick, in fairness to the official his yellow card was excellent as well. There are far to many players in today's game that the moment they enter the penalty area they look to hit the ground. Mike was spot on with his decision and although it was once again controversy involving the official, this time I will back him to the hilt. Well done that man I say.

So there you have it, two totally different officials having superb games in my opinion. It in fact is great to report on, as it has been a rough couple of months for officials and let us hope the boys have got their acts together for the final couple of months of the season. I will be surprised though if we are not talking about more controversy in the not to distant future.

One Good One Bad - Ref Watch

Refereeing as we know is a very tough profession in today's modern game. It has often been claimed by many to be the impossible job. There are so many cameras in the ground now that every decision is highlighted and scrutinised by many pundit,s who sit in nice warm studios. These guys in my opinion are not really qualified to be passing comment on a trade they know very little about. If you look at Robbie Savage for example, let us be totally honest and say the only thing he knows about refereeing, is how to cause match officials lots of problems when he was on the field of play. Over the years I have had many discussions with players both past and present and not a lot of them know the rules of a game they play in every week. The main reason players take part in our beautiful game is to win and sometimes it is to win at all costs. When I took on this column for the website I decided it was not to slaughter officials, but I was keen to discuss issues in games where I felt they could have done things different. Over the past couple of week's I have watched plenty of games from around the world and for this article I would like to take a look at the performances of Lee Mason in the Arsenal against Stoke game and Paul Tierney who was in charge of a big clash in the Championship between Brighton and Leeds United.

Lee Mason in the big scheme of things did not really have a bad game in his handling of the Arsenal against Stoke game, but he did leave the field of play at the end of ninety minutes with a big talking point hanging over his head. His decision to award Stoke a penalty in the first half raised quite a few eyebrows and I have been asked by many of my friends as to why having awarded the penalty kick, he did not apply the full letter of the law. The incident I am looking at occurred in the twenty ninth minute of the game when Arsenal's Granit Xhaka caught Joe Allen of Stoke with an elbow in the face inside the penalty area. It was an excellent decision by the official to award the penalty but then to follow that up by not sending off the Arsenal player was ridiculous. In my opinion once Lee gave the penalty he should have sent off Xhaka for violent conduct. I have had numerous amount of former colleagues ask my opinion as to why the Arsenal player was not sent off and the only answer I can come up with is that the official bottled it. This is not something I say lightly as I would like to think that  there are referees not brave enough to give the big decisions. As I mentioned earlier, in my opinion the giving of the penalty was an excellent decision but all the good work was undone by not producing what I thought was a clear red card.

Arguably one of the biggest games of the month in the Championship was the clash between Brighton and Leeds United. You will not know this, but I am a big Leeds fan and never miss a game when they are on TV and over the years I have been to Elland Road on many occasions. I very rarely comment on officials who take charge of Leed United games, because as you know the heart can often rule the head, so I tend to just watch and enjoy the games involving my club. But I can not on this occasion let the official away without a mention. The man in question was Paul Tierney who in my opinion had one of the best games of the season so far. It was a game where Paul had two big penalty claims to call and got both correct. The first penalty in my opinion was a brilliant decision as he judged that Kalvin Phillips had handled a shot from Lewis Dunk that was going into the net. It was a great spot from the official as he could so easily have missed it from the angle he was looking at it. Top marks to Paul, and he did follow the letter of the law and sent off the Leeds player. The overall control by Paul during the whole ninety minutes was a joy to watch and I do not think he actually got anything wrong. His night was complete in the closing moments of the game when he awarded Brighton a second penalty for Leeds defender Bartley hanging onto Dunk in the penalty area. His awarding of both penalties were correct and it showed me how much the official was tuned in and on top of his game. As a Leeds fan I have no problem with the official on the night as I thought he had a great game. It is not very often you hear that from a fan who,s side have been beaten and had two penalties awarded against them.

Well there we have it, two all so different refereeing performances under the microscope and with so many different outcomes. If you sum it up, it has to be that Lee got it wrong and Paul got it perfectly correct. I will leave it there for this week but I am sure I will be back again soon as the refereeing performances stutter from bad to worse. Enjoy your football this week and let us hope we are not talking about a poor performance by an official involving a team which you may support. We have to live in hope. " Ciao "

Ah Come On Referee - Our new RefWatch column

Welcome to what I hope will be a regular column for the website. Each week I plan to look back at the previous weekend's referee errors and hoping to shed a little bit of light on the official,s failings. I will take in games from not only the Barclays Premier League but all around Europe as well.

For those of you who do not know my background let me fill you in. I was a referee in the Republic of Ireland for more than 20 years, officiating from junior level right up to European football. I have held a FIFA assistant referee,s badge and was involved in numerous games around Europe. In what is now known as the Airtricity League I refereed at the top level in this country. The plan with this column is just to bring the spotlight on the referees for you the fans. Each week I will have a look at two games and the referees involved.

This week the spotlight falls on Anthony Taylor who took charge of the biggest game of the weekend between Manchester City and Chelsea and Michael Oliver who was the man in the middle for the game at Goodison Park. So read on and let me below give my reaction to what I thought were poor performances by two FIFA referees who should have done better.

Anthony Taylor was the man in the middle for the Manchester City and Chelsea game, a match that would be watched all around the world. In my opinion he made a total mess of it and when the game erupted near the end with a twenty two man brawl he had to take a lot of responsibility for the melee. It was a game where it seemed to me he was simply not at the races.

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As a referee you need to get the big decisions and when Anthony failed to deal with a blatant foul by David Luiz on Aguero I just knew trouble would follow. It was a clear cut foul by the Chelsea defender and in my opinion the referee bottled it. In fact if you get a chance to look back at the action again, watch the referee,s reaction when the foul takes place, his hand clearly goes to his pocket as if he was going to get a card out, but in the end he did not even blow his whistle for a foul. On the day he also turned a stone wall penalty claim for City when Gundogan was taken down in the penalty area. These decisions had City incensed and I felt it would lead to problems and it came when Aguero went in waist high on Luiz and was correctly shown a red card. Players came from every direction to join in a mass brawl and Fernandinho was also shown a red card for putting his hand on Fabregas, s throat. In my opinion Cesc should have gone as well, due to the fact he got involved in a situation that was nothing to do with him, in fact he was also guilty of putting his hand on Fernandinho, I thought the Chelsea player behaved despicably in his effort to get his opponent sent off. At the very top level of football if a referee misses one big crucial decision he can end up in a lot of trouble and on Saturday that is exactly what happened to Anthony Taylor.

Twenty four hours later it was Everton and Manchester United's turn to take centre stage. The man given this game was Michael Oliver and in my opinion he did not fair much better than his colleague Anthony Taylor. The challenge by Rojo on Idrissa Gueye was a red card all day long and he only produced a yellow,  something everybody in the ground and those watching on TV could not understand as having given the free kick, a red card was expected to follow. The actual foul ticked all the boxes that are set down for referee's to try and help them get the correct decision in the end. It was an easy red card in my opinion, but the fact Michael did not produce one was astonishing. You are probably wondering what I mean by an easy red card, it is something referee's will say when there is no doubt in anyone,s mind that the player should have received his marching orders. Later on in the game there was an incident involving Seamus Coleman and Zlatan which the referee failed to deal with as well. As the players tussled Zlatan clearly kicked out at Coleman's head as they were on the ground, the referee stood off the incident and in my opinion should have jumped in to stop any messing. After the game Zlatan claimed he did not kick Coleman intentionally but it does not matter,  no matter what angle you look at it from, he did kick him and in my opinion like most people's he did it deliberately. So overall Michael missed two big incidents in the game and that is just not acceptable from a FIFA man.

There we have it, two huge games over the weekend refereed by FIFA officials who in my opinion had a bad day at the office. As the season goes on, we will have plenty more bad decisions by referee's and let us all hope that it will not involve a team you support or like most fans it will drive you crazy. Referee's need to up their games to a level were we do not see mistakes on a large scale, but I am not sure it will happen anytime soon. Until next week enjoy your football and do not let the officials upset you. " Ciao "

By David Meier

Former FIFA Assistant Referee.


Top players to sign on FIFA 17

Here are some top players to sign on FIFA 17 courtesy of @FootyTen

  1. Quincy PromesPromes currently plays for Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League. The 24-year-old Dutch winger has an overall rating of 81. Promes has an 86 acceleration, 89 pace and an outstanding 91 sprint. Moreover, he has an 83 dribbling and an 82 for ball control. Quincy Promes needs to improve his finishing, though (he has got 73 for finishing skills).

  2. Nampalys Mendy - Mendy has a 75 for pace, 89 for stamina and 83 for balance. What is more, you can buy him in FIFA for just 600 coins

  3. Sime Vrsaljko - Vrsajlko has 91 for stamina, 82 for crossing and 82 for sprint speed. He has great acceleration, composure on the ball and vision for the game.  Sime Vrsaljko might have an overall 79 rating in FIFA 17, but he actually is a decent full-back. You have to shell out 550 coins for his services

  4. Yaroslav Rakitskiy - The 27-year-old Ukrainian centre-back has some good stats in FIFA 17: he has got 82 for defending, 80 for physical abilities, 77 for passing, 74 for dribbling and 73 for pace. His positioning is only 56, but he has got other qualities to make up for his flaws. You can purchase Rakitskiy for approximately 750 coins.

  5. Carlos Kameni - Kameni has some decent stats in FIFA 17: 82 for diving and handling, and 87 for reflexes. Positioning is still decent (74), but his distribution might need a further improvement. The Malaga goalie might not be the most commanding in the game, but he could be a good option if you’re looking for quality and fair price. You can sign him in FIFA 17 for just 500 coins.

  6. Manolo Gabbiadini - has an overall rating of 81, and all his other stats speak of a decent striker: he has got 89 for long shots, 87 for shot power, 84 for ball control, 80 for positioning and 79 for finishing. Manolo Gabbiadini could be best employed as a winger, or in a supporting role. His finishing might not be the best in the game, but his long-range shots are devastating. Gabbiadini is definitely worth it. You have to shell out 1000 coins for his services.

  7. Kevin-Prince Boateng - he has 86 for strength, 84 for shot power and 83 for ball control. Kevin-Prince Boateng is still one hell of a midfielder: his ball-juggling tricks are second to none. He would cost you just 850 coins.

  8. Nelson Semedo - He has an overall rating of 76, but that should not fool you into thinking that he’s your average defender- on the contrary. Semedo has got 91 for sprint, 86 for acceleration, 85 for stamina and 74 for crossing. The Benfica youngster is blazingly fast, solid and good with the ball. You have to shell out nearly 900 coins to sign him in FIFA 17.

  9. Andre Andre - The 27-year-old has 86 for stamina, 83 for short passing, 82 for reactions, 81 for interceptions and 80 for high ball control. Andre is a well-rounded player, someone who possesses sheer work ethic and great work rate. The Portuguese central midfielder is just one of many Porto talents. If you want to have an agile and all-around great midfielder, Andre is the right man. You can sign him now for only 1000 coins. His stok price might skyrocket in the near future.

  10. Andrew Robertson - Scotland and Hull City left-back Andrew Robertson has an overall rating of just 75 in FIFA 17, but he can be an added value to your BPL team. The 22-year-old has 85 for sprint, 81 for stamina and 83 for agility. Robertson scores low on areas such as finishing, long shots and long passing, but his defending skills make up for his flaws. The great news is, you can actually buy him for only 400 coins.

  11. Keita Balde Diao - Senegalese international Keita Balde Diao is another hidden gem in FIFA 17. Should you decide to sign him, you have to pay around 850 coins- a bargain considering his skills. Keita is one of the fastest players in the game: he has 91 for acceleration and speed. Morover, he has got 85 for dirbbling and ball control. The 21-year-old is not a great header (58) and he definitely needs to work on his free kicks (52). Keita has an overall rating of 78, but his value could skyrocket in the coming years. The Lazio forward would be a great alternative in the attack. His skills are definitely worth the price tag. 

  12. Juraj Kucka - If you’re looking for a strong, solid and all-round midfielder, Juraj Kucka is the right man for the job. He has 90 for rating for strength, 87 for stamina, 85 for shot power, 84 for aggression on the pitch and 79 for ball control. Kucka could be yours for nearly 1200 coins. The AC Milan midfielder would be an added value to your team in FIFA 17.

  13. Yannis Salibur - Salibur has 88 for sprint speed and 90 for acceleration, enough to dazzle the opposition. His long passing (63) is certainly not his thing, but it’s not something that is required for a forward. Yannis Salibur is a highly versatile player, able to play as a forward or a winger. If you are looking for a player who combines speed, versatility and stamina, Salibur is your answer. You can sign him for 700 coins.

  14. Leroy Fer - The 26-year-old is a beast: he has got 92 for stamina, 90 for jumping, 85 for shot power and 80 for aggression. The Dutch is a decent passer (76 for long, 79 short) and an equally good dribbler (78). Leroy Fer has an overall rating of just 76, which is a bit underrated given his performances. You can buy him for 900 coins- a great deal.

  15. Angel Correa - The Argentine is a huge asset in FIFA 17: you can buy him for 1300 coins. Angel Correa has 87 for dribbling, 85 for ball control, 83 for pace, 82 for long shots and 81 for finishing. His lack of height (5ft8) is a blessing in disguise: Correa is a tricky player. Buy him as soon as possible.