For the first time in 80 years, there will be no referee from any of the associations within Britain at the World Cup in what is a damming indictment of the state of refereeing on these islands.

36 officials were formally selected by FIFA on Thursday from the longlist they compiled two years ago.

Mark Clattenburg was the only referee from Britain to make the long list and as he has moved on, there will be no representative from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Keith Hackett, the former referees’ chief, told The Daily Telegraph that this was “symptomatic of an ageing group of referees and a drop in the overall level”.

He added: “We’ve lost people like Howard and Mark. They are difficult to replace. I also think the existing select group of referees are not challenged enough even when they are struggling to maintain form.

“It is not that there is a shortage of referees but a roadblock, and I would like to see more people who are doing well at the Select Group Two level being given a chance.”

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Calum Chambers of Arsenal appeals as referee Mike Dean awards a penalty against him during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns on December 31, 2017 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Refereeing standards, especially in the Premier League, have been heavily criticised for a number of years.

Speaking at the end of 2017, Arsene Wenger said after Mike Dean awarded West Brom a last-minute penalty that cost Arsenal two points, “I’m angry because we have seen the same things again.

“I did fight very hard for the referees to become professional many years ago and they did a good job to allow them to be professional. But I see no improvement.

“There are two countries in Europe where you have professional referees, in Italy and in England, and not one English referee will go to the World Cup.

“But everything is all right. We cannot say a word against it because they’re untouchable.

“That is the truth. It’s not only me that judges them.”