The Football Association has announced the team of referees that will take charge of this year’s FA Cup Final. The full slate of officials is below:
May 18, 2019 – Wembley Stadium Manchester City FC vs Watford FC REF: Kevin Friend AR1: Constantine Hatzidakis AR2: Matthew Wilkes 4TH: Graham Scott VAR: Andre Marriner AVAR: Harry Lennard
Now, before I give you my opinion, let me preface it by saying this: the FA Cup carries a long-standing tradition with regards to its referees, in that you cannot referee more than one final. You can be a fourth official and then a centre ref, but you cannot centre (or be an AR for) more than one final.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what I think of the decision to give Friend the 2019 final. Given the referees available, I think it’s a good choice. The reaction on social media, however, is rather less complimentary:
Obviously, these are some pretty knee-jerk reactions – Friend is far from the most insufferable of English referees (I’m looking at you, Martin Atkinson). But he’s also not exactly in the top bracket of elite officials in the country (where arguably only Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor reside).
Like I highlighted earlier, however, the same referee cannot be appointed more than once, so let’s think this through. There are 17 referees in the PGMOL Select Group, the highest bracket of officials in England. Of those 17, seven of them have already had an FA Cup Final: Dean (2008), the aforementioned Atkinson (2011), Marriner (2013), Probert (2014), Moss (2015), Taylor (2017), and Oliver (2018). That leaves a pool of 10 referees to choose from:
Stuart Attwell David Coote Roger East Kevin Friend Simon Hooper Chris Kavanagh Lee Mason Craig Pawson Graham Scott Paul Tierney
With respect to the others, the way I see it, you can only really make a valid argument for three of them: Pawson, Kavanagh (both FIFA-listed referees), and Friend (who has the most PL matches this season out of anybody on the list).
Pawson is probably one of the most inconsistent referees I have ever seen, and Kavanagh is probably a little too inexperienced at this point in his career (although I have no doubts he will referee a final someday). So, this long-winded preamble is all to say that, again, of the available referees, Friend is probably the best of the bunch.
Although he’s not a particularly personable referee, and he has that “if you don’t like my call, too bad” attitude about him, he’s a reliable enough official who will pull out the cards if required (hi again, Atkinson) and generally not let games get out of hand. In short, he’s a good choice for the final.