Interview with former top referee Keith Hackett

Former referee Keith Hackett began referring in local leagues in Sheffield back in 1960. He gradually made it onto an elite panel of referees and eventually had the honour of referring at International level.

With the return of the Premiership, he feels that they would have learned a lot from how the Bundesliga have returned to action.

“Hopefully in these situations they will share information across the countries.” he said ”I think they’ve already made it very clear in terms of what players can do in terms of spitting, mobbing the referee and confrontations and they[referee’s] are looking for a bit more discipline from the players.”

He also feels that this is the right time for the return of the Premiership:

“If it had gone on a bit later the Premier League would have had a very difficult decision and as we creep more and more towards the start of the new season the window of opportunity to get the season finished was diminishing so I applaud what they have done, I think they are taking exceptional care in terms of testing the players and making certain they are ok.”

The main concern on the restart will be the fitness levels of players. Hackett continued:

“I hope we don’t have the same in Germany where there was a considerable uplift in the number of injuries which was rather surprising because when you have a crowd that raises your adrenalin as a referee and the players and sometimes they do daft things and now there might be that they are over-stretching.”

He also felt that the officials were not quite up to their normal high standard:

“In a game of football that adrenaline rush that you get from fans keeps you on your toes and I thought in one or two cases in the Bundesliga games the referees seemed to drift a bit and loose a bit of concentration on the odd occasion and of course referees can’t afford to do that and if they do they are going to miss things and if they do that we are going to get the wrong decisions.”

Hackett also feels that some referees in the current game are not up to the standard that they should be:

“There are some referees on that list that I think are very lucky to be on that list and there are one or two passengers I think that need to move on, they need to be put under pressure in order to sustain the very top quality performances the Premier League and the Championship require.”

Hackett refereed at the highest level in English football for 23 years and loved his time with the whistle:

“Refereeing of football matches believe it or not is not a punishment it is an enjoyment and I think I got a lot out of referring from a satisfaction point of view, health point of view, it got me fit and mobile and of course the challenges of going around the world referring and at home as well as seeing the introduction of the Premier League and seeing that for the first two seasons get established.”

He was also in charge of a memorable match between Manchester United and Arsenal back in the 1990-91 season which saw a mass brawl on the pitch involving 21 players:

“It took me more by surprise than anybody and I learnt from it.” he said “The one thing is that you just needed to prepare a bit more, then perhaps I would have known there was a bit of ill feeling in the previous game between Winterburn [Nigel] and McClair[ Brian] and if I had of known that in fairness I might have been in their zone having a word of encouragement rather than a threatening word, but it all happened so quickly.”

He retired from refereeing in 1994, but was soon back involved in football:

“When I left refereeing my intention was to leave it for good, but I got dragged back to become the PGMOL boss and we started to introduce technology.” he said. “I watched rugby and was very keen on introduction the communication kits, so we introduced them. I brought in art monitors for the training. I was sat in the directors box at Old Trafford when Roy Carroll dropped the ball a yard over the line and at the following shareholders meeting of the Premier League I put forward a case for technology. I was asked by former Fulham Chairman Al Fayed what would I change in football and I said goal line technology and his answer was go and get it then.”

What does Hackett really feel about VAR

“I’m a believer in VAR. When I was referee we had three cameras. The modern game is 22 minimum. What I wanted with VAR was a balance to say look give the referee another look. What I’m seeing with these lines been drawn along the pitch, the technology is not good enough to make offside calls to the fractions that we are actually seeing, and I think that is where we should follow the MLS. Let the VAR assistant have another look and judge it on what he sees on the big screen. If he gets it wrong it’s far better to get it wrong that way than technology that is telling us it’s right, when generally I think we know that it is not.”

Click below to listen to the full interview with Keith Hackett: 

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