Controversial calls and admitted referee errors that helped Mexico win last year’s Gold Cup have led to a restructured referee department for soccer’s governing body in North America.
The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) on Wednesday announced changes after releasing a five-and-a-half-month review of its referee department in the wake of the tournament in July last year.
CONCACAF is seeking a new director of refereeing and is to boost pay for referees as well as change the method of appointing officials of matches to fall in line with world body FIFA’s guidelines.
“We are committed to making the necessary improvements to our referee department to ensure it operates effectively,” CONCACAF acting general secretary Ted Howard said.
In the Gold Cup last year, US referee Mark Geiger admitted making errors after being challenged by losing players and officials over game-changing calls during Mexico’s 2-1 semi-final win over Panama.
“This is a big robbery,” Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez said of the defeat.
“It was robbery at gunpoint. It’s a very sad thing to say. We were robbed,” he said.
That followed Mexico’s 1-0 quarter-final win over Costa Rica, during which El Tri scored the lone goal off a dubious penalty deep into injury time after 120 minutes.
The CONCACAF report overseen by Howard found “no clear or convincing evidence of match fixing or an intentional effort to affect the results” and said the Gold Cup decisions “could be attributed to simple mistakes, errors in positioning, and/or lack of concentration.”
CONCACAF said the appointment process for match referees “has led to mistakes, valid criticism from many stakeholders and information leaks” and dubbed labor disputes by the referee group during the Gold Cup “an unnecessary distraction for the referees at a critical time.”
Referees had not received a pay boost from CONCACAF in recent years, but the organization is to implement new financial terms for referees and other match officials.
“These changes will provide our referees, officials and assessors with the proper structure, training, and support to carry out their responsibilities on the field,” Howard said.
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