Who’s your favourite Premier League referee? Yes, you! Don’t look back. Have a second or two to think about it. That bald guy abi? 😂 Do you know that every PL referee belongs to an elite pack called Select Group One?
Bet you didn’t.
Don’t worry, though. We have broken down everything to know about this elite cadre of refs later in this piece.
However, it has come to our attention that regardless of the critical role referees play in our sport; they are never nearly as popular outside of the four corners of the pitch as they are on it.
It’s darn near impossible to forget the names of players and coaches of your favourite teams.
But even if you watched a match a day (as we recommend), a Premier League referee can walk right past you in real life, and you might not flinch.
So, why don’t we hear about these guys outside of their day jobs?
Or night jobs.. depending on if your team plays Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night football.
For one, they don’t get to have those fancy interviews like players or managers.
Neither do their posts show up on our Facebook and Instagram feeds. Truth is, we no too send them!
Well, except they fxxked your team up real good at the weekend 😅.
Whatever the reason, we’ll like to change that paradigm about Premier League referees. They’re humans too after all.
In this comprehensive post, we’ll cover everything from their on and off-field personalities, to stats, fun facts, their career journeys, and paychecks (in case you’re considering alternative careers in football).
Our top Premier League referee picks
1. Michael Oliver: Michael Oliver became the youngest referee to officiate a Premier League match at only 25 years old.
He’s a world-renowned ref, and we’re pretty sure ladies turn up for his matches for reasons other than to watch a fair game of football.
2. Mike Dean: Mike Dean (aka Cool grandpa) is just as good as any other referee on this list. But he has two things many don’t: many years of experience and a loving-spirit.
3. Kevin Friend: Kevin Friend is an excellent referee. He has maintained this reputation since the day he was appointed a Premier League official.
Who’s a Select Group referee?
Well, we don’t think we need to tell you who a referee is.
But just as a formality, they are the mid-aged guys that have to watch every ball motion on the field of play to give decisions when necessary.
Before now, they used to be the final decision-makers in every match.
But with the advent of VAR, a percentage of that power has been snatched away.
All the referees in the English game belong to the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).
This body officiates every Premier League, Football Association (FA), and English Football League (EFL) match.
There are many referees in England. While some take charge of Sunday League matches, the rest officiate more competitive games.
English refs are ranked according to cadres, and the Select Group One referee category is at the top of the pecking order.
These golden boys take charge of all Premier League matches.
Just behind them, we have the Select Group One assistant referee category.
Then the rest are bundled together and given the tag, Select Group Two referees.
They officiate Sky Bet Championship matches.
What does it take to become a Select Group One Premier League referee?
Refereeing sounds like an easy job to do.
Run around a bit, discipline players, award set-pieces and penalties, then go home with a fat paycheck 🤑.
Anybody can do it, right?
See for yourself what it takes to become a Select Group One referee in the Premier League:
Career progress steps
1. You’ll need to complete the FA’s Referees Course with your County FA:
Like every other job, you’ll have to work your way to the top if you want to become a top-class Premier League referee.
The first step is to complete the referees’ course.
As a trainee, you’ll start out as a level 9 referee. But upon completion of the course, you become a level 7 ref.
2. You can then apply for promotion:
A promotion brings you closer to the magic number (1), but you’ll have to go one step at a time.
If you show some next-level spark, your county can recommend that you get a double promotion from level 6 to level 4.
But that’s as far as you can get. You can’t do that Primary 4 to Secondary School stunt here 😂.
3. You’ll need to rise through the ranks again to become a Select Group One referee:
Keep on working hard, and you’ll get to level three.
But at this stage, it’s almost as if the FA wants to test your resilience.
Instead of moving from level 3 to level 2 referee, the board puts an extra step which they tag the level 2b 😫.
To climb this step, you’ll need to top the merit referee table made by a club, and also score high points when an observer marks you.
The final step to becoming a Select Group One referee requires you to don a suit and tie for an interview.
But once you ace it, you can start booking Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp for gesticulating too much on the sidelines!
Breakdown of the referees’ career ladder in England
|Level||League and category|
|Level 1||Premier League and English Football League (National list)|
|Level 2A||National League Premier (Panel Select)|
|Level 2B||National League South and North (Panel)|
|Level 3||Contributory Leagues (Contributory)|
|Level 4||Supply Leagues (Supply)|
|Level 5||County Leagues (Senior County)|
|Level 6||County League (County)|
|Level 7||Amateur Leagues (Junior)|
|Level 8||Junior referees|
Physical requirements of football referees
Sir Alex Ferguson once criticised a referee’s physical fitness after his Manchester United team failed to breakdown a steadfast Sunderland at Old Trafford in 2009.
Ferguson later apologised and was charged by the FA for improper conduct, but referee Alan Wiley never remained the same.
Such is the importance of physical fitness to referees in today’s game. And boy do they do high-intensity physical training.
You’d expect that any referee should have a bit of pace to keep up with the intensity and end-to-end nature of football these days.
But there’s no need to have a 90 FIFA speed rating. Somewhere between Nemanja Matic’s and Granit Xhaka’s paces is good enough.
A couple of other requirements include:
1. You must pass and complete FIFA’s fitness test:
The first part of this test requires the referee to sprint.
There are six 40-meter rounds with 60-second rests between each sprint.
You’ll also be required to complete these sprints in six seconds (just in case Kylian Mbappe or Sterling decides to show up in one of your games).
The second part involves 4,000 meters of running divided into 75-meter runs and 25 meters of recovery walking.
You’ll have 15 seconds for the runs and 18 seconds for the recovery walks 😨.
Tough work, yeah? No kidding, bruh.
2. You’ll need to pass and complete the PGMOL’s test:
The test is very similar to that of FIFA’s albeit many conditions like the required speed is reduced.
Obviously, the referee should not have a history of health issues.
So, you can’t have illnesses like hypertension, heart problems, frequent migraines, diabetes.
Nobody go look your side if you fall, rest assured.
List of Select Group One Premier League referees: Who is your fave?
Now, let’s get to the juicy stuff😋. Here are the Select Group One referees in the Premier League:
PS: This list is not a ranking.
Martin Atkinson is an old boy in the game that still has enough steam to carry on refereeing for years to come.
The 49-year old started his career almost two decades ago, and he has become perhaps the most respected Premier League official in the game.
He’s like the Ibrahimovic of referees; old but still got the moves🕺.
Starting as an assistant referee, Martin got promptly promoted to the elite Select Group One referee gang in 2005.
In 2006, he became a member of FIFA’s official list of referees.
Ever since, it has been back to back hits on the international stage as well as in FA competitions.
Martin has officiated several Champions League matches. He has also been the man in the middle for some Euro 2012 qualifiers and Euro 2016 games.
Date of Birth: 31 March 1971
County FA: West Riding County Football Association
PL Debut match: Crystal Palace vs Manchester City (18 September 2004)
Most notable match officiated in English football: 2006 FA Community Shield between Chelsea and Liverpool.
Total PL matches: 403
Red Cards: 61
Yellow Cards: 1342
1. Martin was demoted in 2010 for doing ojoro in favour of Manchester United:
David Moyes side scored twice in injury time, bringing the score to 3-3.
When Everton was on the attack to get a winner, United’s 12th player abruptly blew the whistle.
Thankfully, the demotion to the role of a fourth official only lasted a week.
2. Martin is a no-nonsense man:
In a qualifying game in Euro 2016, he abandoned the game between Serbia and Albania when violence between fans broke out.
He’s also known to dish out yellow cards like its ten-naira biscuit.
Martin Atkinson is a good referee, but he’s gotten into the bad books of a lot of coaches, and players for being ‘unfair.’
Well, as a referee, you can’t be everyone’s friend!
This bald, Kane lookalike is a 41-year old, Manchester-based Select Group One referee.
He has quite some experience officiating matches in the Premier League and on the international stage.
Anthony started his professional career in the Northern League, and his rise up the ladder was rather unexpected. Since then, he has not looked back.
His stardom year was 2015, where he officiated the Capital One Cup final as well as the Community Shield.
Date of Birth: 20 October 1978
County FA: Cheshire Football Association
PL Debut match: Fulham vs Portsmouth (3 February 2010)
Most notable match officiated in English football: 2015 Community Shield between Chelsea and Arsenal.
Total PL matches: 248
Red Cards: 35
Yellow Cards: 862
You know how your boss always tries to be kind to you and your colleagues for a while in the New Year even if he’s as mean as Nanny McPhee?
Well, Anthony displayed his inner Nanny McPhee right from the off in his first game of the 2011-2012 season.
He sent off three players without batting an eyelid🤤.
Anthony can be a little inconsistent with his bookings. However, he’s one of the top refs English Football has ever seen.
In the looks department, Michael Oliver is undoubtedly the top pick among the Select Group One referees.
But don’t let that baby face, and nice haircut fool you. Michael is anything but soft when officiating.
The 35-year old has had an excellent career so far, and to many pundits and managers, he’s the best in England.
The Golden Boy!
Little wonder top games like the finals of both the 2018/2019 Champions League and the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup were handed to him.
Michael comes from a family of referees. And he has always been refereeing top games even from early on in his career.
Back in 2009, he took charge of the League One play-off final, while his father, Clive officiated the League Two play-off final.
Michael’s wife is also a referee, so it’s more or less like a family business.
If England needs to field a referee, there’s no doubt that he’ll be the man they’ll call.
Date of Birth: 20 February 1985
County: Durham FA
PL Debut match: Birmingham City vs Blackburn Rovers (21 August 2010)
Most notable match officiated in English football: 2014 Community Shield Arsenal vs Manchester City
Total PL matches: 256
Yellow Cards: 809
Red Cards: 35
Michael likes to live a private life. He’s not active on social media, which is weird because his wife is. See her Twitter account.
Maybe staying under the radar is his way of attracting the ladies. Sharp guy😜!
Michael Oliver is an excellent referee. He’s smart, fair and has an in-depth understanding of the rules of the game.
4. Mike Dean
Where do we start? Mike Dean is a handful!
He’s a pretty old fella, but the way he officiates just shows that he enjoys his job.
Mike is 51 years old, and he is a well-known Premier League referee.
For a ref who has officiated through Chelsea’s manager-shuffling years, you have to give him credit for how agile and fit he is.
Just have a look!
Like many Premier League referees, Mike Dean has made numerous appearances on the international stage.
But it’s his on and off pitch behaviour that makes him one of the most-loved referees in the game.
Before we let the cat out of the bag, let’s look at his details first.
Date of Birth: 2 June 1968
County: Chelshire FA
PL Debut match: Leicester vs Southampton (9 September 2000)
Most notable match officiated in English football: Birmingham City’s triumph over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup.
Total PL matches: 504
Yellow Cards: 1,860
Red Cards: 104
You know how referees are not supposed to support any team? Well, the rules don’t apply for Baba!
He climbed the railings to celebrate extravagantly when the club reached the play-offs, to the displeasure of a lot of pundits.
2. Mike Dean is the first referee to officiate 500 games, and also dish out 100 red cards in the Premier League:
About the cards, it’s not like he’s that mean. With over two decades under his belt, these things happen.
3. Mike Dean loves giving penalties:
Someone commits a foul in the box. He sees it, and then he looks away.
But two seconds later, as if his ancestors whispered in his ears, he gives the penalty in high fashion.
Pointing to the spot is for mere mortals. Mike Dean points like he’s trying to show everyone where the penalty spot is.
He stands there for about a minute or two, just pointing!
4. Mike has celebrated a goal in a match he was officiating before:
After Kun Aguero’s 93rd-minute winner that snatched Manchester City the title in 2012, Dean actually celebrated with them.
Although he cautioned himself so that it wouldn’t look too obvious, enough cameras already got him.
See min 19:59 of this:
And how can we forget how he hid the ball in his shirt from Aguero when the striker scored a hat trick in another game.
What a terrific guy, Mike.
5. Arsenal fans don’t like Mike Dean at all:
He once had a ban petition signed by over 100,000 arsenal fans 😂.
You’ve just got to love Mike Dean. He’s the fun guy that every player and manager will miss when he retires.
5. Paul Tierney
Paul Tierney is a new-school referee in the Premier League.
He was only promoted to the Select Group of referees in the 2014/2015 season.
In this short period, he has made quite a name for himself with his impressive CV.
The 39-year old Christmas-born has three Wembley appearances as an assistant, fourth official, and centre referee.
But in recent years, Paul has been the man in the middle most of the time.
Date of Birth: 25 December 1980
County: Lancashire FA
PL Debut match: Swansea City vs West Bromwich Albion (30 August 2014)
Most notable match officiated in English football: 2014, Swansea City vs West Bromwich Albion
Total PL matches: 75
Yellow Cards: 222
Red Cards: 6
Paul Tierney is the first-ever official to consult the pitch-side monitor before making a major decision in a Premier League match.
He changed his decision and showed a red card to Ben Godfrey after initially showing the Norwich man a yellow for his tackle on Callum Wilson.
"It only took them eight months to get to the monitors, but they got there."
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) January 18, 2020
Paul Tierney is quite a prospect to look out for in the PL.
He’s still new, and only time will tell if he can surpass the achievements of most referees or get a call up to officiate international matches.
But his social life ehn…. Tueh 😒!
6. Kevin Friend
Next, we have Kevin Friend. This whistle controller started refereeing at the young age of 14.
By the start of the 2009/2010 season he was called up to the table of the big boys; the Select Group🙌.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise, though.
For someone who had taken charge of more than 100 matches outside of the Premier League before this appointment, it looked like it was his destiny to be a top-flight ref.
Date of Birth: 8 July 1971
County FA: Leicestershire and Rutland County Football Association
PL Debut match: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Fulham (20 September 2009)
Most notable match officiated in English football: 2012 Community Shield between Manchester City and Chelsea.
Total PL matches: 221
Red Cards: 26
Yellow Cards: 777
Kevin Friend isn’t an uptight referee. He loves a cold beer, and yes, watching the replay of his matches with friends.
Kevin hasn’t stirred up much controversy in his short time as an official, which is a great thing.
You know what they say? The refs are only talked about when they fxxk up!
He’s done pretty well so far, but we hope he can keep up the pace in years to come.
Chris Kavanagh is one of the latest boys to get into the Select Group One referee club.
Born in Manchester, he’s also another ref who seemed to get the calling pretty early in life.
At 13 years of age, he had made a name for himself in local football and was promptly promoted to the National League in 2012.
Since then, everything for him has been double-double🙌.
Year of Birth: 1985
County FA: Manchester Football Association
PL Debut match: West Bromwich Albion vs Southampton (8 April 2017)
Most notable match officiated in English football: EFL Cup semi-finals between Leicester and Aston Villa (8 January 2020)
Total PL matches: 60
Red Cards: 4
Yellow Cards: 199
Kavanagh is a well-known fourth official. He’s been the board-boy for quite some top-flight matches, which is what you’ll expect from young blood.
Chris Kavanagh is definitely one for the future (guess we can say that about referees too).
Hopefully, he’ll get a better run of international matches especially as the Olympics draws near.
This Sunderland-born referee is eight on our list, but not for lack of ability.
His face is quite familiar because he has been in the Premier League for almost a decade.
The 49-year old was appointed a Select Group One referee in 2012 after stints as an assistant referee.
Date of Birth: 18 October 1970
County FA: West Riding County Football Association
PL Debut match: Blackpool vs Birmingham City (4 January 2011)
Most notable match officiated in English football: FA Cup final between Arsenal and Aston Villa (May 2015)
Total PL matches: 220
Red Cards: 32
Yellow Cards: 754
Unlike other referees who had a knack for officiating from a young age, Moss grew up as a footballer (with that his stomach, it’s difficult to see how that’s possible😂).
He later abandoned his dream of becoming one to get a degree in physical education.
Jonathan Moss loves teaching, and before he got committed to officiating matches, he was the Headteacher of Beech Hill School.
Jonathan Moss is a great guy, but he can be a little inconsistent. If he can brush up that flaw, the FA will definitely give him top matches to handle.
Having officiated in the Football League, Marriner was called up as a Select Group One referee in 2005.
Before then, he was an assistant referee.
He has also had quite a go on the international stage with some matches in the European Championship qualifiers, World Cup and Europa League under his belt.
Date of Birth: 1 January 1971
County FA: Birmingham County Football Association
PL Debut match: Charlton Athletic vs Norwich City (13 November 2004)
Most notable match officiated in English football: FA Cup final between Manchester City and Wigan Athletic (May 2013)
Total PL matches: 326
Red Cards: 57
Yellow Cards: 1028
Andre Marriner didn’t always have it in mind to become a referee.
In fact, the first game he was in charge of in 1995 was to cover for an official who did not turn up for the match.
That has got to be fate🙂!
Andre has achieved a lot in his almost three-decade career.
But he still has time to surpass the achievement of Mark Clattenburg, the legend – officiating the FA Cup, Euro and Champions League finals in the same season.
10. Lee Mason
Lee Mason is just as charismatic and energetic as Mike Dean.
Growing up as a footballer, he played several games before finally taking up the whistle in 1988.
He’s also had some time as an assistant referee in the Football League and Premier League, so he can be used in any officiating position.
Date of Birth: 1 January 1971
County FA: Lancashire Football Association
PL Debut match: Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa (4 February 2006)
Most notable match officiated in English football: League Cup match between Manchester United and Chelsea (October 2012)
Total PL matches: 274
Red Cards: 40
Yellow Cards: 846
Lee Mason was dropped from refereeing on a weekend because of the controversy in Huddersfield Town’s game against Cardiff City in 2019.
He made too many glaring mistakes that we’re sure would have been embarrassing for his trainers to watch.
Asides the above incident, you can’t say a lot of bad things about Lee Mason. He’s been amazing.
11. Stuart Atwell
This dude has got to be a vampire.
If we didn’t know better, we’d have thought he was 25 or 26.
He’s 37 years old, and has been refereeing for more than 15 years!
Stuart has been the man in the middle for League two, League one, international matches and Europa League qualifiers.
In the 2008/2009 season, he was included as a Select Group One Premier League referee after only a season in the Football League.
At that time, Stuart was the youngest to get such call-up.
That record has now been broken by Michael Oliver, who was 25 when he refereed his first Premier League match.
Date of Birth: 6 October 1982
County FA: Birmingham County Football Association
PL Debut match: Blackburn Rovers vs Hull City (23 August 2008)
Most notable match officiated in English football: League 1 play-off semi-final first leg between Yeovil Town ad Sheffield United.
Total PL matches: 109
Red Cards: 14
Yellow Cards: 382
You know how you get substitute teachers in secondary school? Well, referees also have that.
In 2010, Stuart was the man in the middle for three weeks of matches in the Japanese League.
This was part of the referee exchange programme between the two FAs at the time.
He needs to get more games and be more consistent if he is ever to cement his place as the best Premier League referee.
12. Craig Pawson
Finally, we’ve got Craig Pawson (every day looks like a bad hair day for him!).
He’s the seventh English referee to get a call up by FIFA, and he has alternated between this role and officiating the Premier League since 2015.
In his early days, he refereed quite a number of games as the fourth official.
The most notable one being the League Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in 2015.
Date of Birth: 2 March 1979
County FA: Sheffield and Hallamshire County Football Association
PL Debut match: Swansea City vs Newcastle United (2 March 2013)
Most notable match officiated in English football: League Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester City (2018).
Total PL matches: 149
Red Cards: 26
Yellow Cards: 515
He was dropped in Matchweek 21 of the 2019/2020 season (we are sure you can’t remember 😂) after failing to send Jorginho off for an obvious pull on Matteo Guendouzi.
At 40, Craig Pawson still has time to make the world feel his presence in the Premier League and in international competitions.
But at the moment, the guy dey try 👏.
Frequently Asked Questions about Premier League Referees
1. How much does a Premier League referee make?
Top referees are paid a basic salary of £70,000/year whether they officiate or not.
When you add match fees (£1,000) and bonuses, these officials can earn six figures in a year.
When compared with how much referees in lower leagues are paid 😝 (£340 to £500 a match with no basic salary), you’ll agree with me that Premier League referees are living the life.
2. How is the referee schedule done in the Premier League?
Premier League referees get their ‘top-secret’ messages on which matches they’ll be in charge of every Monday at 4 pm or midday on Tuesday.
From this time until the game, they prepare and re-watch clips of both sides to understand their tempo, tactics, and player behaviours.
3. What’s life like as a Premier League referee?
Moving away from the constant running around referees are subjected to on the pitch, these officials live a fascinating life.
There’s no home ground where you can drive to, so there’s a lot of travelling. Sadly, referees cannot travel with their families.
There are lots of perks they enjoy as a result of their job, though.
For one, their families get free tickets for matches, and with their low-profile lives, no one usually has any idea who these family members are among the crowd.
Refs also get some of the best kit deals that players dream of.
4. Who monitors the actions of referees?
The PGMOL assessor watches every match on a web file or DVD and takes record of every decision made by the referee.
After the assessment, the referee gets feedback and is either dropped for the next games or encouraged to make better decisions.
5. Who makes Premier League referees’ kits?
At the beginning of the 2019/2020 season, the FA gave Premier League referees ‘fine-fine’ clothes to wear.
Nike sponsored the kits, and it came in four colours: siren red, equator blue, anthracite black and volt.
The shirts are made from sweat-wicking fabric that helps referees stay focused and dry all through the match (Make 40 years plus men no go faint on top pitch).
Officiating is no easy job. Get one decision wrong, and the fans will come for your head.
There’s been a lot of mystery about Premier League referees, and we hope we’ve cleared the air.
What do you think about Premier League referees in general? Do you know anyone who should be a Select Group One referee?
Or you have a favourite ref amongst the current crop?
Let us know in the comments below.