The former head of English football’s professional referees has described the decision to select Greater Manchester-based official Anthony Taylor for next Monday’s meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United as “grossly unfair”.
Despite hailing from Wythenshawe and living just six miles away from Old Trafford, Taylor will take charge of the hotly-anticipated Premier League clash at Anfield.
Keith Hackett, a former general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), believes that the appointment will put undue pressure on Taylor, who has emerged as one of the top flight’s leading referees in recent years.
“No-one is questioning Anthony’s integrity or his ability to handle this game. You could argue it’s testimony to his unflappable character and capacity to focus that he’s been appointed to it,” he told his own You Are The Ref website.
“But what if something goes wrong for him on the day – as it can for even the finest referees? That’s when the focus on him would be intolerable, especially if a controversial incident has gone in favour of Liverpool and it influences the result.
“If that happens then it would be those who appointed him who must take the blame for such an avoidable risk – on a weekend when Mark Clattenburg, the 2016 Champions League final referee, is holding up a board as fourth official in another match.”
Although a referee’s addresses are collected at the beginning of each season, their place of residence is not taken into account when appointments are made.
Taylor’s appointment has caused some consternation on Merseyside and Hackett believes that such pre-match controversy could be a pre-cursor to further criticism if Taylor makes a high-profile error in Monday’s match.
He said: “It is a small slice of what can be expected if things go wrong for Anthony – and his bosses – in the game itself. I sincerely hope that he has a very good match – for any number of reasons.”
In April this year, Kevin Friend was removed from Tottenham Hotspur’s meeting with Stoke City due to his perceived support of the north London club’s title rivals Leicester City.
Friend, who also supports Bristol City, lives in Leicestershire and had previously admitted to attending matches at the King Power Stadium “quite a bit”.
In 2014, the then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was fined after he publicly criticised a decision to appoint Lee Mason as referee for a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
“I was surprised that we are playing in Manchester and we had a referee from Greater Manchester,” he said.
“Hopefully we won’t have a Greater Manchester referee with Liverpool-Manchester games in future.”