The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) announced on Thursday that following general manager Peter Walton’s work to professionalize match officials both in the United States and Canada, the organization has named Video Review operations manager Howard Webb as the new GM, effective immediately.
As the leader of PRO since inception in 2014, Walton has cultivated the structural framework and provided essential resources through support staff, training, education, and welfare, all of which will continue with Webb at the helm. Walton will remain involved as a consultant, and manager of Assistant Referees Greg Barkey will continue his current role while taking on additional responsibilities as manager of senior Assistant Referees and Video Review operations.
“Developing PRO into the organization that it is today has been a tremendous honor,” said Walton. “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.”
Since Webb joined the organization in March 2017, PRO and MLS implemented Video Review into 154 MLS games last season with Video Assistant Referee (VARs) becoming the fifth member of officiating crews league-wide. In addition, PRO referee Mark Geiger was named VAR for the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi. The extensive training in video review and overall match preparedness has resulted in two PRO referees being retained on the FIFA World Cup shortlist for the first time in organization history.
“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,” said Webb. “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.”
Prior to Webb joining PRO, the former FIFA referee had a track record of leadership in officiating organizations. He oversaw the development of referees in the English Premier League, English Football League (EFL), and Football Association (FA) as technical director for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), He also served as the Saudi Arabian Football Federation director of referees.
Webb’s 25-year officiating career featured more than 500 combined matches in the English Premier League and Football League, and his landmark 2010 season remains the only instance of a referee officiating both a UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup Final in the same year.