Should refereeing in the KHL be completely independent? What do the clubs requesting from the league require? nasshliski

You always want to believe in the best and enjoy the holidays. It seems that one of the most interesting seasons of the Continental Hockey League in recent years continues to unfold before our eyes. Many of the measures taken by the KHL management to equalize opportunities bore fruit: the regular season brought several surprises, and unexpected results were put on the conveyor belt in the playoffs.

But behind the brilliant sensations one important thing can be overlooked: this season the clubs have made quite a few complaints about the league’s refereeing body. And this despite the fact that serious fines are imposed for public criticism of arbitration: the price for talking about the work of people in striped sweaters starts at 300 thousand rubles. Discontent became especially strong in the playoffs. This is understandable: if in the regular season the price of one or two matches against the background of their large number may not be critical, then in a series of up to four victories it becomes a matter of life and death.

We will not delve into the analysis of specific episodes, especially since you have probably already read about the loudest ones. We draw your attention to the fact that some clubs did not limit themselves to public statements, but took their complaints to the regulatory level.

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As previously reported by the Championship, several KHL clubs, including Dynamo Minsk, SKA and Barys, sent a letter to the league with proposals for reforms. Let’s break it down and understand how potential changes will affect officiating.

Officiating in the KHL must be completely independent.

Photo: Maxim Shmakov,

What do the clubs offer?

The first proposal is to reorganize the entire arbitration system. This applies to him and the procedure for appointing arbitrators. But the most important reform is the creation of an independent arbitration committee under the direction of the KHL board of directors. This body is expected to include distinguished referees, famous hockey players and hockey officials. The Referees Committee, as an independent organization, will be able to impartially evaluate the work of referees in specific matches, keep a record of their errors and make recommendations, both on the work of individual referees and on changes to the rules.

The second is to make the work of match inspectors more transparent. In case anyone doesn’t know, every KHL game is supervised by an inspector who evaluates the quality of officiating and then sends his report to the league department. But this information is for internal use only. The clubs also propose inviting inspectors to participate in post-match press conferences, where they can explain the issues and decisions that have caused a stir. In addition, based on the inspectors’ reports, it is proposed to form a public classification of referees to ensure transparency in the appointment of referees for matches, especially for playoffs.

Yes, such changes can not only cause, but are guaranteed, a flurry of criticism and discussion. But its main goal is clear: to make trials as transparent as possible and eliminate all possible accusations of bias. It is clear that the league will oppose this, because it is satisfied with the current situation of this season: hockey is unpredictable, the enthusiasm around hockey and the KHL is growing. But the number of representatives of perplexed clubs will also grow.

Officiating in the KHL must be completely independent.

Photo: Yuri Kuzmin,

What about the other side?

In its quest to make the championship more unpredictable and interesting, the KHL is taking many of the tools that have been working in the NHL for a long time. There has been a salary cap for several seasons; Starting next, a limit on the number of declared hockey players and contracts in the club system will be introduced, the preseason will be shortened, and the season itself will be extended until the end of May. How is the refereeing system structured in the foreign league? Let’s start with the fact that in the NHL neither league commissioner Gary Bettman nor his deputy Bill Daly can solely control the referees. All questions related to this portion are left to Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. His responsibility is to protect on-ice officials from general managers and club owners. But NHL head referee Steve Walkom works more closely with referees, but does not communicate directly with them. He hires supervisors, an analogue of our inspectors.

At the same time, Bettman and Daly are in charge of speaking to the press about refereeing. Colin Campbell frees the commissioner, deputy commissioner and chief referee from direct pressure from owners. And supervisors protect referees from the influence of both the league and the clubs.

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Therefore, if the KHL wants to adopt the foreign system, then it needs inspectors who know how the game is played and how to maintain it. You need to hire competent people, not your friends. We need people who are loyal to the game itself.

This was already established in the KHL when the league was created in 2008, but began to steadily erode starting with the 2015/2016 season, when the head referee of the KHL began to report directly to the president of the league. It will be remembered how KHL Vice President Vladimir Shalaev gave extensive comments and even full press conferences on certain points. Nowadays, everything is limited to dry press releases on the league’s official website.

This season, by far the most unpredictable in KHL history, there has been a lot of talk about the referees, who should be the most invisible participants in the game on the ice. The letter from clubs such as SKA, Barys and Dynamo Minsk is only the first sign.

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