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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Howard Webb promoted to top job of U.S. referees' group PRO

Webb has been mocked his entire career but still refereed with authority, good sense and class.
Howard Webb retired from on-field refereeing duty in 2014.

Former Premier League referee Howard Webb is taking over as general manager of the organization that oversees officials in Major League Soccer.

Webb, 46, will replace Peter Walton in the leading role for the Professional Referee Organization, which manages refs for leagues in the United States and Canada, including MLS.

Walton, who has led PRO since 2012, will return to England and work for PRO as a consultant, the group said on Thursday.

"Developing PRO into the organization that it is today has been a tremendous honor," Walton said in a statement. "Our officials have more resources than ever before, and their world-class training has been rewarded with opportunities at the highest levels both in the CONCACAF region and globally.

"I have incredible faith that Howard Webb will continue to lead this organization with referees reaching even higher standards and realizing many more groundbreaking achievements."

Webb, who worked the World Cup and Champions League finals in 2010 before retiring from on-field duty in 2014, joined PRO last March and oversaw the implementation of video assistant referees (VAR).

"Peter Walton and I have been friends for a very long time, and our respect for one another has only grown stronger as we've collaborated to continue the improvement of officiating standards over the last year," Webb said.

"We have great opportunity with the growth of the game here, and I look forward to drawing upon my experiences to provide the best possible training, resources, and technologies as we strive to become the global standard."

Meanwhile, in an interview with Press Association Sport on Thursday, Webb called for patience over the introduction of the VAR after a controversial launch of the system in English football.

The VAR trial has been run in both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup this season, over a total of four live matches so far, with Wednesday's FA Cup third-round replay between Chelsea and Norwich littered with controversial decisions.

"It's always going to be a challenge because the game is subjective," Webb said. "We'll only get better and better the more we train with it, the more we establish benchmarks and become efficient.

"People need to be a little patient, but overall I think most people would agree it's the right way forward to avoid those clear errors that can be consequential for the careers of players, managers, officials."

Former England captain Alan Shearer, in his role as a pundit for the BBC on the Chelsea-Norwich tie, labelled VAR a "shambles" after referee Graham Scott chose not to consult colleague Mike Jones over a penalty claim in the Chelsea game.

VAR had been used 24 hours earlier to award a goal for the first time in Leicester's replay against Fleetwood.

Webb, previously the technical director for PGMOL, which oversees England's trial system, said he would have liked to have had VAR during his refereeing career.

He added: "Sometimes you get doubt in your mind and you'd like an opportunity for that to be checked. Now you've got somebody in the booth who is doing that.

"I think it empowers the guys to know they've got that faith."

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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