Fans from across the South of England attended the EFL’s second Fan Forum of the season at Sky Central in London last night.The Fan Forums are part of the EFL’s commitment to engaging with supporters across the three divisions.
Former referee and PGMOL Head of Community and Engagement Chris Foy spoke in depth about recent rule changes and took questions from fans about the Laws of the Game. Foy’s interactive presentation let supporters get to the heart of refereeing and ask important questions about match officials’ decisions.
A part of Sky Sports’ 'Support the Referee' week, fans also learnt about the investment from Sky Bet Championship clubs to Select Group 2 referees and the positive impact it has had throughout the EFL.
At the start of the season each Championship club invested £50,000 to enable Select Group 2 referees to become contracted, with the money helping officials in all areas of training including reviewing decisions, psychology and fitness.
Chris Foy said: “I really enjoy being able to speak directly to fans, we’re all here because we have a shared passion and love of the game. It’s important that football fans understand the changes in rules and the difficulty match officials can have in making decisions. It’s all about helping to change perception of referees and match officials.”
Supporters also heard from EFL’s Director of Communications Mark Rowan, the EFL’s Competitions Manager Paul Snellgrove, who explained details about fixture selection, and former Charlton, West Ham and Chelsea defender Scott Minto who provided an insight into refereeing from a player’s perspective.
The now Sky Sports pundit said: “Kids in rugby are told in no uncertain term that they cannot argue with referees and that’s just not the same in football. When I was playing I don’t think I realised what an important role model players really are, of course they have a responsibility to lead by example.
“As a player it used to help when you could have a little bit of banter with the referee and they’d explain that they’d made a decision from what they’d seen rather than just ignore or not engage with you.
“It’s fascinating to hear from Chris [Foy], and with the speed and the complexity of today’s game the referees really do have a split second to make a decision, so there needs to be a greater respect and understanding at how difficult that decision can be to make.”
Sky Sports’ Head of Football Gary Hughes also explained how Sky are looking to innovate their coverage as well as explain the minimum five week commitment between the broadcaster and the EFL in announcing live television fixtures. The five week commitment was announced at the start of the 2016/17 season to help give clubs and their fans as much notice as possible ahead of any matches selected for live television coverage.
The evening concluded with an open Q&A between supporters and the panellists.
Further EFL Fan Forums are planned across the country throughout the next two months.