It’s not often football fans look at referees in a positive way. Officiating is an unforgiving task, but the greatest Premier League referees managed (or still manage) to keep the mistakes and controversy to a minimum.
Being a good referee is not always about being centre of attention, but being able to let games flow while retaining control.
If you’ve regularly bet on the Premier League, you will be more than familiar with the names mentioned throughout this article.
Even in the era of VAR, there is room for referees to have different tendencies, which can be particularly significant when it comes to betting on cards.
Greatest Premier League Referees:
- Mike Riley
- Mark Clattenburg
- Andy Madley
- Uriah Rennie
- Dermot Gallagher
- Anthony Taylor
- Graham Poll
- Michael Oliver
- Howard Webb
- Mike Dean
These officials have exhibited the skills and mentality required if you’re wondering how to become a referee.
Their careers haven’t been without criticism, but that is par for the course with refereeing at the highest level...
Named as the Irish FA’s Head of Refereeing in the summer of 2023, Mike Riley stepped down as the head of PGMOL at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
Riley has been prominent even since hanging up the whistle in 2009, often appearing on TV to discuss refereeing decisions.
Referee of the 2002 FA Cup final and the League Cup final two years later, Riley was a Premier League referee from 1996 through to his retirement.
He also represented England at the 2004 European Championships, and was FIFA listed for a decade between 1999 and 2009.
During his on-pitch career, Riley is perhaps best known for overseeing the controversial battle between Manchester United and Arsenal, which ended the Gunners’ 49-match unbeaten run.
Renowned as one of the world’s best referees, Mark Clattenburg prematurely departed the Premier League to work in Saudi Arabia in 2017. A stint in China followed, too.
Quickly ascending the ranks after turning professional, Clattenburg was FIFA listed by 2006 and took charge of his first Champions League match in 2008.
During his career in England, Clattenburg oversaw countless big matches, including various finals and derbies.
Andy Madley has only been a Premier League referee since 2018, but he has quickly developed a reputation as one of the better officials in league history.
Madley keeps control of matches, and has demonstrated excellent decisiveness even when under pressure. While one of the younger referees in the Premier League, Madley has impressed in a short period.
It might seem premature to include him here, but his career is trending in the right direction and he’s surely set for a decade-plus as a Premier League referee.
Uriah Rennie was the first black referee in Premier League history. He was in charge of topflight matches across a 12-year period, and was often entrusted with the biggest fixtures.
Also spending four years on the FIFA list, Rennie took charge of multiple World Cup qualifying matches during the first part of the 2000s.
In 2022, he hit the headlines as he rejected a request to be involved with the Qatar World Cup over LGBT rights concerns.
One of the referees in the first ever Premier League season, Dermot Gallagher earned a position on the FIFA list in 1994, which he retained until 2002.
Gallagher officiated matches during Euro ’96 in England, which came just months after he took charge of the FA Cup final.
Granted an exemption to continue beyond retirement age, Gallagher was considered among the country’s best officials right up until he called it a day in 2007.
Since then, he has occasionally popped up on Sky Sports to provide insight into refereeing issues.
Aside from repetitive complaints about his involvement in matches featuring the Manchester clubs, Anthony Taylor has a stellar reputation around the world.
Taylor has had the honour of refereeing multiple FA Cup finals, a Nations League final and was part of the group of referees for the delayed Euro 2020, where he was widely praised for his response to Christian Eriksen collapsing on the pitch.
FIFA listed since 2013, Taylor remains among the best referees on the planet. He is set to feature in numerous more showpiece fixtures.
If you can look past the three yellow cards incident at the 2006 World Cup, Graham Poll has a CV matched by very few of his peers.
Poll was selected to referee at three major international tournaments, and oversaw the 2005 UEFA Cup final.
He refereed over 1,500 matches in his career. Since retiring in 2007, the Hitchin native has remained in the public eye with newspaper columns and various podcast appearances.
Ranked by Keith Hackett as the best Premier League referee in 2022, Michael Oliver has refereed multiple domestic finals, been included in the roster for a World Cup and had numerous Champions League appearances.
He has been FIFA listed since 2012, and joined the UEFA Elite in 2018.
Oliver is consistent in his decision-making, and mixes authority with calmness. Players and managers clearly trust his calls, which is a huge part of the battle for Premier League referees.
Previously one of the highest-paid Premier League referees, Howard Webb was often trusted with the biggest fixtures. If there’s a bucket list for refereeing, Webb checked all the boxes.
His career featured World Cup, FA Cup and Champions League finals, along with various other international and Champions League fixtures.
Upon his retirement in 2014, Webb fulfilled a role with PGMOL before becoming Saudi Arabia’s director of referees and occasionally working as a pundit on BT Sport.
He followed that up by working for MLS before returning to PGMOL as chief refereeing officer in 2022.
After featuring among the list of Premier League referees for over two decades, Mike Dean retired at the end of 2022-23. Never shy of the camera, Dean was quickly snapped up by Sky Sports.
We can argue whether referees should be an icon, but Dean’s willingness to show his personality contributed to his celebrity status and certainly makes him the most famous referee in Premier League history.
Dean, too, was an excellent official for a long time. While his approach could infuriate fans and players alike, mistakes were generally rare.
He certainly had no issue making the big calls in front of potentially intimidating crowds.
*Credit for the photos in this article belongs to AP Photos*