A solid referee can make or break a fans experience of a football match. Some fans believe that certain refs have it in or their teams. Some fans just dislike all the officials. But like any human doing anything, some are better than others at different aspects. Each ref has a unique style and most importantly they all have good days and bad days.
Who is the best Premier League referee? Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) do not publish their internal referee scoring and assessment. So there is no official stat about who the best Premier League Referee is. However, a lot can be inferred from who takes charge of the most games and who is given the big games. Michael Oliver, Paul Tierney, Anthony Taylor and Simon Hooper have taken charge of the most Premier League games, all topping 30 games in the 2022/23 Premier League season. On the Wednesday 26 April 2023 Michael Oliver was put in charge of the effective title decider between Manchester City & Arsenal, the biggest game of the Premier League season.
If you’re thinking; he looks a bit young? What about Howard Webb? Or even, Who’s the best Prem ref ever? Then read on!
Michael Oliver: The best Premier League Referee
Michael Oliver was born in 1985 in Ashington, Northumberland. He is a member of the Northumberland Football Association and was introduced to refereeing by his father Clive, himself a former Football League Referee. Since 2010 he has belonged to PGMOLs Select Group of referees in England, taking charge of his first game at the age of 25 years and 182 days old, breaking Stuart Attwell’s record as the youngest-ever Premier League referee.
He obtained his FIFA badge in 2012, allowing him to take charge of major international matches. Oliver was promoted to the UEFA Elite Group of Referees in 2018.
He has since taken charge of the 2021 FA Cup Final, the 2022 European Super Cup and been chosen to referee at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. He has taken charge of more than 25 games a season for the last decade. Making him one of the top Premier League referees over that period of time, despite his age.
Taking charge of Manchester City vs Arsenal this season, a game which ultimately decided the title, was a huge vote that he is the Premier Leagues top official.
Who are the best Premier League refs in history?
This is an incredibly subjective list, based on games taken, fans opinion, critics opinion, how likable they are and ultimately how I personally feel about them.
The below is a list of the 10 best referees in Premier League History.
- Howard Webb; 2005 – 2014 (retired)
- Mike Dean; 1998 – 2022 (retired)
- Michael Oliver; 2010 (active)
- Mark Clattenburg; 2000 – 2017 (retired)
- Mike Riley; 1997 – 2009 (retired)
- Graham Poll; 1993 – 2007 (retired)
- Dermot Gallagher; 1992 – 2007 (retired)
- Peter Walton; 2003 – 2012 (retired)
- Mark Halsey; 1999 – 2013 (retired)
- Martin Atkinson; 2003 – 2022 (retired)
With the recent retirements of Martin Atkinson and Mike Dean, it is clear that Michael Oliver is the number one Premier League Referee.
Howard Webb; The greatest Premier League Referee
Howard Webb was a big burly referee who officiated with a smile and a calm sense of authority. Aesthetically he would have looked at home taking charge of a Rugby Match, a sport known to have excellent referees. Born 14 July 1971 in Rotherham, Yorkshire, Webb is counted amongst the all-time top referees by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics and refereed top level matches in England including the FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and the final of the League Cup. He was awarded an MBE in the 2011 New Years honors for his services to football.
Webb took charge of 534 top level games from Premier League to World Cups and only dished out 68 red cards. A number that underscores the authority he held on the pitch. His whistle, presence and words were enough to keep most matches 11 v 11, which is always a great outcome in football.
PGMOL and Mike Riley
Ranked 5th on our list of All time Premier League referees is Mike Riley. A household name between 1997 and 2009 while he was the man with the whistle for many high profile football games, he has not lost his influence on the sport since retiring his uniform. Mike Riley is currently the Managing Director of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL). He is in charge of the organization that is responsible for regulating and appointing English Premier League referees. Since he has been in charge the quality of training, guidance and development all officials in England get has increased significantly. The company was created by the Premier League, the EFL and the English FA to increase the level of football officiating in England. It has been such a success that they consult with bodies such as UEFA and FIFA about best practice for referee performance management and development.
While many fans will always dislike the referee, remember, without them, we’re just a bunch of thugs kicking a pig skin around the village.