Sunday 27 May 2012

Probing Lee Probert: Progress Report

This post is a continuation of the observations related to EPL Referee Lee Probert (see previous posts here and here), and provides an update on his performance.

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Sunderland United and Bolton Wanderers on Saturday 28 April 2012. The match finished 2—2.

Incident One: Incorrect Offside Call
In 14', Referee Lee Probert plays advantage and allows Bolton (white) to continue their attack. However, AR2 makes a really poor mistake at an offside call which negates Probert's advantage. Here are the freeze frames:



As the ball is played forward, the Bolton attacker (white) is clearly onside. Where is AR2 positioned?

At his level, the extent of this error is simply outrageous. To compound the error, the body language of the AR is poor. I will have something to say about Arrogant ARs in a future post.

Incident Two: Looking Ahead
In the 26', Referee Lee Probert is giving an impression that he wants to improve his skills as a match official. Here are some freeze frames:

Lee Probert shows signs he is improving his vision and extending his field of view (compare this to an earlier match where he is just focused entirely on looking at the ball; see What is Referee Lee Probert Looking At?)

Here, it is noticeable that Probert is putting in some effort and trying to give the impression that he is taking an active interest in the play ... for a change.

Incident Three: Correct Onside Call
In the 36', good call by AR1 to allow play to continue. As the ball is played forward, the Sunderland attacker (red) is clearly onside.

Unlike AR2 in Incident One, AR1 make the correct decision.

Incident Four: What is Probert Looking At?
In 54' Probert appears to be up to his old self again by simply just following and looking at the ball. Here are the freeze frames:

Lee Probert's eyes are again glued to the ball

However, the difference is Probert's foul identification. Compared with his alarming misses in previous matches (e.g. missed serious foul play incidents; see here Part 4), this time Probert gets the call right. Question: was this challenge reckless?

Improving his foul detection (compared to another earlier match where he failed to call an obvious call right in front of him; see here Part 3)

And from the free kick Sunderland (red) score to make it 2—1.

Notice the Referee's positioning at such free kicks. This appears to be an EPL-specific recommendation, since other EPL Referees such as Howard Webb and Phil Dowd do likewise.

Incident Five: Sign of Improvement in Probert?
In the 70', there are some signs that Lee Probert is changing his ways, and is perhaps improving. This time, when he finds himself in front of the ball he does not appear to be standing like a "rabbit caught in headlights".

And from this passage of play, Bolton's captain Kevin Davis scores the match equalizer.



In this match, there are signs that there are steps taken by Referee Lee Probert to improve his skills as a professional match official in the English Premier League. Mind you, the fact that Probert is already a professional Referee (meaning, a salaried and full-time match official employed by the PGMOL) leads one to wonder what are the fundamental Refereeing prerequisites needed to first become good enough to be considered for a post as a professional match official in England!?

As an observer and educator, it is satisfying to see match officials make progress. This is how it should be. First, there should be no qualms or resentment when there is criticism about a match official's performance. Second, the criticism should be constructive and used to help match officials (including the Referee in question) identify any weaknesses or areas for improvement. Third, match officials should be willing to accept that there are weaknesses in their performances and then take steps to make improvements.

Following the identification and constructive criticism of Lee Probert's performance in the earlier part of this 2011-2012 season, the evidence shows that there are signs that Probert has started to make some improvements. This noticeable change in Probert is likely due to the internal assessment and review system used by the PGMOL. However, the series of posts on this blog about Lee Probert also tells us that Referees do not need to be professionals or to have the benefits of resources available at PGMOL to improve. The rest of us can learn from the mistakes {and successes} of high-profile Referees.

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