FA Cup Final snub for England's best referee Howard Webb

Last updated at 16:48 27 March 2008

England's best referee will not be in charge of this season's FA Cup Final after the FA - bizarrely - appointed Howard Webb to one of the semi-finals.

Webb, widely regarded as the most competent referee in the country, will be the man in the middle for the Portsmouth versus West Bromwich Albion clash on Saturday week and will therefore not be eligible to officiate in the final.

The news comes at a time when confidence in referees has hit rock bottom following West Yorkshire official Mike Riley's handling of the fiery clash between Tottenham and Chelsea last week.

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Howard Webb

England's finest: top referee Howard Webb

Riley has not been handed a Barclays Premier League fixture this weekend. Instead he will take charge of the Coca-Cola Championship game between Charlton and Wolves.

Another official, Steve Bennett, has also been criticised for the way he dealt with Javier Mascherano during Liverpool's 3-0 defeat at Manchester United on Sunday.

Webb, 36, from Rotherham, was the clear favourite to control the final before jetting out to referee at the Euro 2008, where he will be England's sole representative in Austria and Switzerland.

Tradition has previously dictated that England's top referee controls the Cup Final before attending a major championship.

Webb has already been selected on FIFA's initial list of 56 candidate referees for the World Cup Finals in 2010 – once again England's only representative.

The other semi-final will be handled by the 2005 final referee Alan Wiley.

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