• Premier League

Webb escapes demotion after penalty row

ESPN staff
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No Penalty?

Howard Webb has escaped demotion after his refereeing of Arsenal's FA Cup win against Liverpool drew intense criticism from Anfield and beyond.

The official will take charge of Cardiff's Premier League match against Hull on Saturday but he has reacted to the storm surrounding his performance by trying to end discussion of his off-field activities.

Webb has had his name removed from a celebrity website advertising his £4,000-a-night after-dinner services following suggestions he had lost his focus on refereeing.

Webb initially came under fire from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and captain Steven Gerrard for denying Luis Suarez what appeared to be a clear penalty in Arsenal's 2-1 win last Sunday at Emirates Stadium.

However, he was also heavily criticised by former top-flight referee Mark Halsey, who made the claim that Webb had been distracted by his off-field interests and needed to take "a good look at himself".

Webb's apparent reaction has been to have his name, profile and references to his speaking activities erased from an agency website.

Webb was listed as a client of the website comedians.co.uk, which represents numerous high-profile figures from sport, politics and entertainment.

His fee was advertised as between £2,000 to £4,000, according to the Daily Telegraph, and the paper claims someone acting on behalf of Webb asked the agency to remove his details because of the criticism it had brought him.

Webb does, however, reportedly remain a client and available for motivational talks.

The spotlight will remain on the official, who is considered to be the country's top referee and will represent England at the World Cup in Brazil, when he returns to action on Saturday.

The Premier League are reluctant to demote officials unless they have produced a bad run of games and try to avoid reacting too quickly to what can be one-off errors.

Rodgers may dispute that Webb's decision on Sunday was an isolated error. The referee may have given Liverpool one penalty in the game, when Lukas Podolski fouled Suarez, but the manager pointed to a previous incident at Chelsea when his Uruguayan striker was also denied a spot kick.

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