Mark Halsey: Poor Premier League refereeing is keeping Chelsea's Hazard exposed

REFEREE'S COLUMN: The former Premier League official believes referees are struggling to tell the difference between careless and reckless challenges this season
By Mark Halsey of You-Are-The-Ref.com

DOES HAZARD NEED PROTECTING?

Firstly, Eden Hazard should be taking all the plaudits for getting straight back up after the heavy challenges he has received this season.

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Fabian Delph is serving a three-match ban and will miss Aston Villa's games against Leicester City and Blackpool

Jonjo Shelvey is serving a four-game ban and will miss fixtures against West Ham and Chelsea

But because he is getting back to his feet so quickly and going after the ball, instead of staying down and appealing, he is giving the referee the easy option of doing nothing and letting play continue - even though a foul has been committed.

If Hazard stayed on the ground, it would force the referee into action, and we would likely see more yellow cards as a result.

Referees have a duty to protect the Premier League’s best players but, at the moment, they are struggling to tell the difference between careless and reckless challenges.

Karl Henry’s tackle on Wayne Routledge on New Year’s Day is a prime example - that was a clear red card and failing to deal with the situation meant another was caused by Routledge’s retaliation.

Referees can certainly protect the players who are open to the more physical challenges but the crucial part is recognising the severity of the tackles. At the moment, it's all over the place in the Premier League.

FA CUP EASES PRESSURE ON REFEREES - HERE’S WHY…

After the worrying amount of woeful errors in the Premier League on New Year’s Day, it may have come as a surprise that the weekend’s FA Cup action has passed us by largely without incident.

But what you might not know is that all referees are under much less pressure during FA Cup games because they are not being scrutinised by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) evaluation system.

With the evaluation system, every decision a referee makes in a Premier League match is scrutinised by seven assessors, who are led by the PGMOL management. The result is a lack of leadership and an inconsistency in the feedback referees are getting regarding deliberate and non-deliberate handballs, reckless and excessive force challenges. This is what’s leading to all of the wrong decisions we are seeing.

Referees have lost faith in the evaluation system, and the PGMOL general manager Mike Riley has lost the dressing room.

The evaluation system is a great tool to tell referees where they are going right or wrong - but it’s not a coaching tool and more importantly, they are not learning how to correct their mistakes. In any other sport, officials receive extensive coaching but in the Premier League, referees are not getting regular training.

With the FA Cup, referees have been able to relax. Instead of trying to please the evaluators, officials have gone out onto the field, managed the game and enjoyed it.

There is an assessor in the stand during FA Cup games, they are with the referees before the match and they can speak to them directly after the game about their performance. Some of the fixtures over the weekend may not have had the same intensity as what we typically see in the Premier League but the officials did not face the same pressure as usual and were far more relaxed as a result.

The current evaluation system needs an overhaul. The referees are treated like schoolchildren by the PGMOL - these are grown men and they are scared of making a mistake. The return of the Premier League next weekend will throw up the same errors we’ve being seeing all season.

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey was speaking to Chris Davie on behalf of You Are The Ref.
For detailed referee analysis from the experts visit www.you-are-the-ref.com