Select Group Referee fails end-of-season fitness test

By Alex Byrom
Referees Editor

Cup Final referee Phil Dowd has seen his Premier League career hang by a thread after reports emerged he has failed the compulsory end of season fitness test. 

The 49 year old, who has just completed his 12th season as a Premier League referee - after starting in 1986 - and became a Select Group referee in 2003, is required along with the remaining 16 Premier League referees to pass a test in order to keep their place for next season. 

It's a big blow for one of the country's most senior referees, as the Staffordshire whistler has taken charge of many key games down the years. 

He himself will admit to being a bit 'big' but he has never had a problem before - and is still elegible for top flight games after the relaxation of the retirement ages.  

Nearly 3 weeks ago he was walking out for the greatest moment of his life when he took charge of the most prestigious event in the English domestic season: The FA Cup final, when Chelsea held on to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley. That completed the Wembley hat-trick for the Stoke-on-Trent man after taking charge of the 2010 Carling Cup final between Manchester United and Aston Villa, and the 2011 Community Shield as Manchester United beat neighbours Manchester City 3-2. 

The referees of both the Select Group and the National List - so for League's 2 and upwards, the referees are obliged to take a fitness test every so often as a way of keeping up with fitness, testing stamina an check for health risks. If Dowd were not to pass the next test in late July, as the final one before the new season begins, it would bring a premature end to an excellent career of a kind, loving, passionate man, and bring down the curtain of a successful refereeing career. However, what's more worrying is that it would leave the Select Group with just 15 referees for next season - as the 2 referees expected to be promoted from the National List hasn't yet been announced. 


The Staffordshire whistler picks up the official match ball with a lucky contenstant. 

This season he has refereed 38 matches in all competitions: 27 Premier League games, only Howard Webb and Michael Dean refereed more. This included of course the FA Cup final and a Carling Cup Semi-Final second leg between Liverpool and Manchester City - as the Reds sealed their place at Wembley, plus the Community Shield curtain-raiser in August. 

He became a Football League referee in 1997, and frequently awarded a lot of penalties whilst is consistently near the top of the card average chart. This season he awarded 10 penalties, the second most in the division, and handed out 100 yellow cards and 3 reds at an average of 3.81 per game. 

He has come under some criticism - some fair; some unfair in recent years. He was slammed by then Aston Villa Manager Martin O' Neil when he failed to dismiss Nemanja Vidic for a foul on Agbonlahor in the Carling Cup Final of 2010. Last season he was in charge of the Liverpool vs Manchester United match at Anfield, and failed to send off Jamie Carragher for an x-ray challenge on Nani - which left the United winger with a huge slash down his leg. 

This season he was criticised in matches involving Chelsea. First in September, when United defeated Chelsea 3-1 at Old Trafford he awarded United a penalty, but should have given them another one, and then dismissing Ashley Cole for a horror challenge on Javier Hernandez. Then, in November, in the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge he came under the spotlight for poor penalty decisions: he booked David Luiz for a dive, even though it was a stonewall penalty, then failed to send off Bertrand for a horrible challenge before getting the Liverpool penalty right though. 

For the world of Sport, football and refereeing, we hope that Dowd does us all, his family and his father proud and we hope to see him refereeing in the Premier League to complete season number 13 next season.

Click here to hear video of Phil Dowd ahead of the FA Cup Final

Dowd cautioning David Luiz in the Carling Cup match against Chelsea


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