Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has dismissed Sir Alex Ferguson’s criticism of refereeing standards.
The former Manchester United manager said there is a lack of elite-level officials in the English top flight and, echoing controversial comments he made in 2009, questioned their fitness levels.
“By the end, I felt we hadn't had a really top Premier League referee for a long time,” he wrote in ‘My Autobiography’, and added that the behaviour of his players had been “generally excellent” in big games.
Scudamore, though, feels referees in the division compare favourably with those in any other league.
“No, I don't accept the criticism,” he said. “I don't. We are at the leading edge of referee development. We are at the leading edge of referee fitness. We are at the leading edge around Europe in terms of what we are doing with our referees.
“Are they perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Are those mistakes decreasing in frequency? Yes. But would we swap them for any other group? No.”
Scudamore was also unimpressed with former referee Mark Halsey, whose own book, Added Time, criticises his former colleagues.
Halsey said only eight referees were fit to take charge of top-flight matches and that standards are low because of an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” created by the governing body, the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).
He said: “I think it's disappointing when the game has given somebody so many years of matches and such enjoyment and suddenly he chooses to go out and basically do the dirty on his colleagues.
“I just find that poor form, especially from someone you have trusted. I personally expect better behaviour from those we have appointed to be match officials.
“If you are charging people with being referees I just think I want more decent people than that and I just think it's not good for his colleagues. My understanding from the group is they are not happy and neither would you be -- these are perfectly competent good people who are being openly criticised and it's unnecessary.”
Halsey, who retired at the end of last season, was also accused of “betrayal” by former referee Graham Poll earlier this month.
However, Halsey told the International Business Times that his comments were simply designed to give guidance to those referees who need it, and that the Premier League is determined to discredit him after he criticised PGMOL chief Mike Riley.
He said: “I know that members of the establishment have spoken to the press and thrown little hand grenades in and taken them out to dinner and blackened my name.
“If people read it thoroughly, it's me saying that the weaker referees need guidance and managing properly and we don't want to lose them like we lost Stuart Atwell, Keith Stroud and Andy D'Urso. The people in charge of the PGMOL at the moment, they haven't got a clue how to speak to men.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report