The men in the middle are allowed to nail their colours to a particular mast, but there are rules in place regarding which games they officiate
Premier League referees require thick skin, as they are never going to please everybody all of the time, and an ability to appear almost robotic needs to be picked up en route to the top – especially in an era when VAR has added to the melting pot of questionable decisions and fan frustration.
Many officials, though, are boyhood football supporters that have reached the highest level down a different path to the established playing track, with plenty having a specific team that they consider to be a favourite.
Who are these sides and which of the men in the middle are known to have allegiances to specific clubs in English football – with accusations of favouritism and bias never far away from those taking on one of the toughest jobs in the game? GOAL takes a look…
There are a number of Premier League officials that have never revealed their ties to any one club in public, which could be considered a safe choice given the pressure they operate under.
Plenty of others have, however, been happy to openly nail their colours to a particular mast.
Within Premier League circles, leading referees follow sides from across the Premier League, Football League and beyond – with some avid supporters that look to get to as many games as possible when they are not working themselves.
Throwback to Mike Dean leading the Tranmere celebrations from the stands! ????The Premier League ref was buzzing as his side secured their place in the play-off final at Wembley #OnThisDay in 2019! ???? pic.twitter.com/1BRtGxzVuk
Here is the list of Premier League officials for 2021-22 and the clubs they support:
Bristol City and Leicester City
Unsurprisingly, given what is at stake in each passing fixture – particularly at Premier League level – rules are in place that prevent officials from taking charge of games involving certain clubs.
Keith Hackett – the former head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation that makes refereeing appointments for Premier League games – has said: “At the beginning of every season the referees background information is audited.
“They complete a form that includes who they support, the history of if theyve played the game and with the addresses where they are residing.
“That gives you a picture that comes into use when youre appointing. Its about ensuring, for example, you wouldnt appoint a Sheffield-based ref for a Sheffield team.”
Northumberland native Michael Oliver is one official that has never hidden his affection for a club he grew up supporting, with there obvious restrictions on his match allocations as a result.
Michael Oliver in The Clock tonight for a few pre match pints before he cheers on the Mighty Mags ! .. It’s only right the best ref in the world is part of the worlds best fan base ! #nufc pic.twitter.com/EQIr0iOQRT
He told the Daily Mail: “I never referee Newcastle games. We have to declare if we have an allegiance to any club or if a family member works at a club.
“You can’t do any match involving that team and I can’t do Sunderland, either, for obvious reasons.
“Because Newcastle are invariably involved in a relegation battle, when you get to March or April, it means I can’t referee anyone around them towards the bottom three.
“If Newcastle needed a point to survive and the team they were fighting to get above was say Villa, I couldn’t referee Villa’s game either. I wouldn’t want to. It’s not worth the hassle.”
Andre Marriner hails from Birmingham and has said of his ties to Aston Villa: “I go as much as I can and my two kids are season ticket holders.”
He is not allowed to take charge of games involving Villa or Birmingham, although he has officiated two West Brom fixtures in the past.
Jon Moss has never refereed home-town club Sunderland, but was in charge of two Newcastle matches during their Championship title-winning campaign in 2009-10.
“This is why football is the greatest game you will ever see!” ???? @Carra23 pic.twitter.com/jCOkVI6Zn8
Craig Pawson, who can get emotionally invested in games that do not feature his team of choice, is not allowed to referee fixtures involving Sheffield rivals United and Wednesday, or Doncaster and Rotherham.