Former referee’s chief Keith Hackett has criticised the appointment of Manchester-based Anthony Taylor as the man in the middle for Monday’s meeting of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Taylor lives six miles from Old Trafford, which Hackett believes could lead to allegations of partiality.
“No-one is questioning his integrity,” Hackett said. “But what if something goes wrong? It would be intolerable.”
Taylor has no United ties and supports National League North side Altrincham.
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Hackett, the former head of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited body that appoints referees to matches, also highlighted the fact that Mark Clattenburg could have been available to take charge of Monday’s game.
Instead, Newcastle United fan Clattenburg, who refereed the 2016 Champions League, FA Cup and European Championship finals, will be acting as a fourth official at another match this weekend.
Inconsistencies in appointments
Earlier this year, Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend was removed from Tottenham’s game against Stoke because he supports Leicester City, who were battling Spurs for the Premier League title at the time.
However, in the same month, Newcastle fan Michael Oliver was allowed to oversee a match between Norwich City and Crystal Palace, who were fighting with the Magpies for Premier League survival.
In 2006, Tranmere Rovers supporter Mike Dean was withdrawn from the 2006 FA Cup final between Liverpool and West Ham because he was based in the Wirral, not far from Tranmere’s ground.
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“It is a small slice of what can be expected if things go wrong for Anthony – and his bosses – in the game itself,” former referee Hackett added.
“If something happens, it would be those who appointed him who must take the blame for taking such an avoidable risk.”
What does the appointing body say?
PGMOL says the process behind referee selection is all about avoiding “unnecessary extra external pressure and scrutiny on referees” in what is an “already a high pressure and demanding job”.
Where a referee lives is also not a factor when appointments are made, it said.