Rookie official James Bell - who has been dropped from Sheffield Wednesday’s key play-off duel with Cardiff City - is an Owls fan, The Star can confirm.
Bell, in his first season as a Football League official, was originally chosen to be one of the linesmen assisting referee Paul Tierney in Saturday’s crunch showdown at Hillsborough.
But Bell, regarded as one of the most promising officials in the country, stood down yesterday and has been replaced by Ravel Cheosiaua after Football League bosses learned of Bell’s eye-catching appointment.
It is understood Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman contacted the League to express their concerns over the issue. Following the League’s U-turn, Cheosiaua has swapped matches with Oughtibridge-based Bell, who will now be the assistant referee of the Nottingham Forest versus Wolves fixture.
The Star contacted the League for a comment on their initial decision to select Bell for the Championship Play-Off decider.
The League referred the matter to the Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) Board and a spokesman said: “A software error led to James Bell being incorrectly appointed to Sheffield Wednesday’s match with Cardiff City, as he is normally prohibited from officiating at matches involving either of the two Sheffield clubs.
“The error has now been rectified and James will not be involved in this match.”
Owls officials are expecting their highest league attendance of the season for the club’s final home match. More than 32,000 fans are set to roar the team on for their meeting with seventh-placed Cardiff.
It will be the biggest gate since Wednesday stunned Premier League heavyweights Arsenal in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup last October.
With two fixtures left to play, Owls hold a four-point cushion over the Bluebirds. They are effectively five clear because of their vastly superior goal difference. Carlos Carvalhal’s side only need a point to seal a top-six finish.
The Bluebirds must win to have any chance of leapfrogging Wednesday.
It is an all-ticket clash and there will be no pay on the day option. Fans have been urged to buy their tickets as early as possible and not invade the pitch after the final whistle.