Referees are a special breed of human being.
They are at the heart of our beautiful game, yet they are loved by no one. Two tribes with absolutely zero in common will often come together for one common purpose – to berate the referee. It’s a cruel existence, and a thankless task.
Of course, while some referees try to avoid the spotlight, others can’t help but thrust themselves under it. See ex-official Jeff Winter’s autobiography when discussing his final season in the middle…
“I played a little bit of extra time, waiting until play was at the Kop End before sounding the final shrill blast…the fans behind the goal burst into spontaneous applause. It was longer and louder than normal, even for a big home win.
“Did they know it was my final visit? Was it applause for me? They are such knowledgeable football people, it would not surprise me.”
Come on, Jeff mate. What about the latest bunch of top-flight referees? Many have come in for criticism due to some poor decision-making, and others have suffered some torrid abuse – which no one deserves for simply doing their job.
So, it’s time to assess the current crop of Premier League referees, as we rank them on our scientifically devised set of criteria. Whistles at the ready? Let’s get on with it.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Had to use Google Images to check this isn’t some practical joke.
It’s all about me rating – The biggest unknown on this list, so intentionally or not, it’s all about the players when he’s in the centre circle.
Big match control – Oversaw Burnley vs Leeds in December, and had a bit of a stinker. That’s as big as it’s going to get for a while, methinks.
Hair – A solid, thick head of hair. Nicely quiffed to the right, mousey brown little number. Most likely a user of a wax, but no wet gel in sight.
Overall rating: 2/10 – Jones has only taken charge of six Premier League matches this season, which suggests he’s more suited to Championship football. The Sheffield United of the refereeing world.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Looks a little bit like comedian Lee Evans after he’s sweated through a two-hour standup routine.
It’s all about me rating – Officiated a goalless draw between Fulham and Southampton and managed to go unnoticed.
Big match control – Took charge of Manchester City vs Brighton, and did so with gusto. In fact, when he is the referee, games are generally incredibly boring. Two stalemates and two 1-0 wins to his name in seven appearances.
Hair – Unlike a lot of referees, he’s still got it – hair, that is. Looks better when he’s grown it out a bit.
Overall rating: 3/10 – Much like Jones, there is not a lot to dislike about England, but little to write home about either.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Oh, we all know who you are, Mr Mason…
It’s all about me rating – Strikes us as a man who doesn’t want the limelight, but accidentally turns up to a funeral in a Ninja Turtle costume, somehow thinking it was fancy dress.
Big match control – Looks as in control of a situation as a panicked Frank Spencer muttering, “Ooh Betty, the cat’s done a whoopsie on the floor.” One for the kids there.
Hair – Not even his baldy head can save him from the disaster he suffered in the Brighton and West Brom clash on February 28.
Overall rating: 3.5/10 – Indecisive, insecure and bordering on incompetent. All the ‘ins.’
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Hoop are ya? Hoop are ya?
It’s all about me rating – Yet to dish out a Premier League red card this season. Likes to keep it all on the DL.
Big match control – Had to officiate Newcastle United twice in eight matches – poor bugger.
Hair – Another baldy. Gets a good shine on during the match.
Overall rating: 4/10 – Promising signs, but hugely let down by the lack of hair. He won’t be the last, though…
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Jon ‘I think you’ve had juggling balls for Christmas’ Moss, as per Dean Smith.
It’s all about me rating – Literally had the nickname ‘Mossy’ stitched into his football boots.
Big match control – A point of controversy in the centre of the pitch or in the VAR booth. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer once asked if he had fallen asleep on duty.
Hair – Strong in the follicular department. Would definitely rock a mohawk.
Overall rating: 4/10 – Often gets the big calls wrong and seems to have a bit of a big-time Mossy attitude.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Looks a bit like the older contestant who turns up on Take Me Out once an episode.
It’s all about me rating – He’s only just hit double figures in terms of appearances, but he’s dished out four red cards in that time – the second most in the league.
Big match control – Awarded five penalties in ten games – but rarely in the biggest matches.
Hair – Thinning on top slightly, but a decent shade of mousey-brown to it.
Overall rating: 5/10 – Last seen in the Championship – not too much of a surprise.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Eternally confused with Craig Dawson.
It’s all about me rating – Responsible for sending off David Luiz for a very harsh ‘tackle’. Petition then started for him not to ref the Gunners again.
Big match control – Loves a big game penalty – just ask Liverpool and Man City.
Hair – Should request the Peaky Blinders haircut – no one would mess with him then.
Overall rating: 5/10 – Very middle of the road.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Not on Harry Maguire and Solskjaer’s Christmas card list after an inconsistent performance against Sheffield United.
It’s all about me rating – Enjoys centre stage while he’s got one finger to his ear.
Big match control – Not been handed the keys to the Premier League Ferrari.
Hair – Developing an island on the front, Steve McClaren style.
Overall rating: 5.5/10 – Still bouncing between the Premier League and the Championship.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Well known by Chelsea fans, who’ve compiled a thread of all his ‘errors’ against the Blues.
It’s all about me rating – Not necessarily a flashy or arrogant character, in fairness.
Big match control – Solely blamed for the Blues’ defeat in the 2020 FA Cup final. Had the chance to make a name for himself and did – but for the wrong reasons.
Hair – None. And Chelsea fans don’t think he deserves any.
Overall rating: 5.5/10 – Some supporters despise him (Chelsea), others probably have fond memories (Arsenal).
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Only promoted to the top flight in 2018 and still finding his feet.
It’s all about me rating – Would prefer to avoid being centre of attention, but can’t help himself.
Big match control – Took charge of Everton vs Spurs in the FA Cup and saw a nine-goal thriller. Get him on the biggest matches!
Hair – Solid hairline, but not much style to go with it. Could suit a beard and buzzcut.
Overall rating: 5.5/10 – As a referee, he’s new and has plenty to learn. Keep him away from the VAR booth, then.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Famously the brother of former Premier League referee Bobby Madley. I bet dinner time at the Madley household was fun with those two…
It’s all about me rating – Managed to be coerced into a poor decision by Mason at the Amex once, which smacks of a man willing to listen – to the wrong people, perhaps.
Big match control – Suffered the wrath of Everton supporters for awarding Brighton a penalty against the Toffees. Yet to manage one of the big boys.
Hair – No great style to his mop, but he’s got one and that’s all that matters.
Overall rating: 6/10 – Could still follow in his brother’s footsteps to become a Premier League regular.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Looks like a tired Biology teacher.
It’s all about me rating – Took the spotlight by booking Jack Grealish for a dive back in 2019 to rule out a last-minute equaliser. Straight out of the Deany handbook.
Big match control – Kept far from the Premier League classics.
Hair – Keeps it trim, but a strong colour to it.
Overall rating: 6/10 – Pretty consistent, but he’s got a clanger in him.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Awarded the famous ghost goal in a match between Reading and Watford. Not how he’d like to be remembered.
It’s all about me rating – Loves a yellow card – dished out 59 in only 14 matches. That’s pretty high for a ‘me me me’, referee.
Big match control – Gave nine yellows in the Fulham vs Aston Villa clash. Could well lose control of the actual big games.
Hair – Looks like he’s been giving himself lockdown haircuts all his life.
Overall rating: 6.5/10 – Too good for the Championship, but not one of the big boys just yet.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Bore the responsibility of both the Manchester and Merseyside derby – becoming a big name on the circuit.
It’s all about me rating – There’s an air of arrogance which follows this guy like a pungent aftershave.
Big match control – Wound up Liverpool fans by barely glancing at the VAR monitor when his original decision was brought into question. Didn’t overturn it – shock.
Hair – Excellent, dark head of hair. Expect that to whiten over the next few years of enduring football’s most difficult job.
Overall rating: 6.5/10 – Hasn’t whipped up too much of a storm – other than in Merseyside.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Not as famous as Kieran Tierney.
It’s all about me rating – Wiling to blow a few seconds early when Liverpool are in on goal. Takes guts and a love for the stage, that.
Big match control – Must have got his cards for Christmas, the way he whips them out in the crunch matches. Just let the game flow.
Hair – Plenty of hair, and potential for a nice slick back.
Overall rating: 7/10 – Paul Tierney is given plenty of big games, so he knows his stuff. Just needs to apply that knowledge a bit more.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – One of the top dogs, everyone knows Marty.
It’s all about me rating – Only awarded 49 yellow cards in 19 matches – a good ratio.
Big match control – Not been awarded the big games this year. Sometimes less is more.
Hair – Another silver fox, but rocks it well.
Overall rating: 7/10 – There are worse referees in the league, that’s for sure.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Rumoured to introduce himself as ‘Dre’, although he denies these claims.
It’s all about me rating – Not afraid to go against the big boys, leading Jurgen Klopp to describe his officiating as ‘Not Ok’. Ooo, burn!
Big match control – Oh go on, let’s give Dre a big, full-blooded game!
Hair – Silver fox on the sides. Still a strong head of hair on top.
Overall rating: 7.5/10 – We don’t have anything against Dr Dre.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – World famous. The big name on refereeing campus. Butch Cassidy AND the Sundance Kid. Joker, Bane and Scarecrow. Ozzy Osbourne. Walter White. Madonna. More famous than all of the above – put together.
It’s all about me rating – Let’s face it, this category was made for Mike Dean. He longs to be hooked up to a microphone, explaining his every step to his loyal supporters. Watches himself on the VAR monitor with too wide a smile. Desperate for a ‘Dean Cam’.
Big match control – The right man for the job – when his ego allows it. Can get caught up in drama and writes his own narrative. Loves a last-minute penalty or a controversial red card – and then remembers he can control their regularity.
Hair – Bald, but did grow a lockdown beard and looked like his head had been glued on upside down. Bring it back, Deany!
Overall rating: 8/10 – Love him or hate him, Dean is one of the best in the business, but his attitude and love for drama lets him down. The Mario Balotelli in the centre circle.
‘Who are ya?’ rating – Made his name with some rascal haircuts, and that fresh face stands out in a sea of middle-aged obscurity.
It’s all about me rating – One of the better referees when it comes to letting the game flow and not abusing his power. A bit suspect in the VAR booth, however.
Big match control – It has to be said – this man can referee a big game. He’s taken charge of the Merseyside derby, Man Utd against Arsenal and Man City vs Liverpool to name a few.
Hair – Had tram lines shaved into the side of his head back in 2016, an act that will go down in Premier League history. Would probably wear football boots with lights on the back if they existed.
Overall rating: 8/10 – Despite the ill-fated haircut of 2016, Oliver is one of the best referees about, and when he gets it wrong, it’s more of a shock than an inevitability. Keep it up, lad.