Premier League referees are instructed to uphold complete neutrality when overseeing matches in the world’s most renowned domestic league. However, this professional obligation doesn’t restrict referees from openly supporting their favourite football teams when they’re off duty.
In fact, many referees are huge football fans themselves, which prompts an intriguing question: which football teams do Premier League referees support?
Keith Hackett, the former chief of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the entity responsible for appointing referees for Premier League games, explained the process of selecting a referee for a specific match: “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 they’ve played the game and with the addresses where they are residing. That gives you a picture that comes into use when you’re appointing. It’s about ensuring, for example, you wouldn’t appoint a Sheffield-based ref for a Sheffield team.”
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Fans are naturally inclined to generate conspiracy theories and scour the internet for any signs of bias, especially when a decision goes against their team. However, what The Sporting News can offer is insight into the backgrounds of current Premier League referees, shedding light on where they grew up and whether they openly support a certain team.
Former Premier League referee Howard Webb was appointed as chief of referees August 2022, becoming the PGMOL’s first chief refereeing officer.
Webb had been with the Professional Referee Organisation (PRO) in the United States since 2017, initially serving as the head of VAR operations before taking the role of general manager in 2018.
The 52-year-old then left his position with Major League Soccer at the end of his contract earlier and then started with PGMOL, the body overseeing refereeing in English football.
He is originally from Rotherham and is a fan of Championship side Rotherham United. Webb was previously a policeman before officiating in a Champions League and World Cup final in 2010, becoming the first referee to do so in one campaign.