REFEREE Graham Scott has been promoted to the Premier League after being included on the Select Group list for the 2015/16 season.
The 47-year-old from Oxfordshire will become full-time after six years in the Football League and receive an annual salary along with the 16 other confirmed officials for next campaign.
He effectively replaces Chris Foy, who announced his retirement at the age of 52 last month to take up a senior coaching role with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).
It is unlikely that any other National List officials will be promoted but the Premier League is now facing a record low referee shortage with the list of 17 officials including injury-hit 52-year-old Phil Dowd, who has struggled with a knee problem since February.
It remains to be seen whether Dowd will pass the required fitness tests ahead of the kick-off on August 8.
The announcement of Scott’s elevation comes as Football League linesmen Daniel Cook (Hampshire) and Andrew Fox (Warwickshire) were promoted to Select Group assistant referees.
He told the Oxford Times he was “very excited” to receive the news in a phone call on Monday.
“I am one of six referees who have been training with the select group for the past two years, and being prepared for such a promotion,” Scott explained.
“When I took the call, I was obviously taken aback at first, but very excited at the same time.”
Scott – a member of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire FA – received his first ever Premier League match last November when Burnley hosted Aston Villa at Turf Moor.
Assisted by the experienced Scott Ledger, Mike Mullarkey and fourth official Jon Moss – he put in a competent display and issued seven yellow cards as well as awarding Burnley a late penalty after Jores Okore hauled down Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Scott also got another taste of being in the middle when replacing the injured Phil Dowd at the Hawthorns at half-time during West Brom’s 1-0 win over Southampton back in February and correctly booked Albion’s Stephane Sessengon for a dive.
He has officiated top-flight teams in the past in cup competitions – including Chelsea’s League Cup third round win over Bolton at Stamford Bridge last October – and has been fourth official for a number of Premier League games.
Fellow Football League referees Keith Stroud, Stuart Attwell and Paul Tierney were also awarded trial games throughout last season with other potential candidates such as Simon Hooper, David Coote and Andy Madley missing out.
But Scott – a member of the so-called “Talent Group” of officials seen as worthy for promotion – is seen as capable of officiating at the highest level after a series of top marks from assessors.
It was largely seen as a surprise but the decision to add him to the Premier League list has been well-received among refereeing circles.
He has largely slipped under the radar during his time in the Football League although has shown enough to impress and demonstrated his ability to keep control of difficult games.
Given his mature age, it remains to be seen how long Scott will referee in the top-flight but it illustrates the PGMOL’s intentions to recruit more experienced options with Howard Webb retiring last summer.
Last season, Scott oversaw 43 games across seven different competitions – brandishing 140 yellow cards, sending off four players and awarding 14 penalties.
He took charge of 15 Championship games, nine in League One and nine in League Two as well as three FA Cup matches, four League Cup ties and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern area final second leg between Bristol City and Gillingham at Ashton Gate.
It was a typically busy end to the season for Scott in 2014-15 having officiated the final-day Championship clash between Blackburn and play-off finishers Ipswich before two Premier League fourth official assignments.
He then replaced Andy Madley as referee for the League Two play-off semi-final second leg as Southend beat Stevenage at Roots Hall before being assigned to electronic board duties at Wembley for the League Two play-off final itself.
The Abingdon-based whistler took up the whistle after his playing career was ended by a back injury and progressed through his local leagues before making the step up to non-league in 2005.
He was then promoted to the National Group at the start of the 2008/09 campaign having impressed when regularly refereeing FA Cup first round ties and Conference games.
Scott was involved in a bizarre incident in January 2013 when an AFC Wimbledon fan allegedly threw a banana in his direction after being angered by a decision he made during their 2-2 draw with Port Vale.
He follows in the footsteps of now-Fifa official Craig Pawson, Roger East and Robert Madley who have most recently progressed from the Football League while 2015 FA Cup Final referee Jon Moss and Neil Swarbrick were also promoted in 2011.
After heavy criticism from former referees’ chief Keith Hackett earlier this year, the likes of Andre Marriner, Mike Jones, Kevin Friend and Lee Mason could be at risk of demotion – the fate suffered by Stuart Attwell in 2013 – following high-profile errors this term.
Although he has not refereed any major cup finals, Scott has been involved in several FL play-off games including a League Two play-off semi-final second leg and fourth official for the League One play-off final both in 2013.
Scott is likely to be given his first run-out as a full-time referee in August so he could be in the middle at a ground near you soon! Congratulations to the Oxfordshire whistler!