Negative comments about the level of officiating in the Premier League are among the most popular football cliches used by supporters across the country.
However, some officials deserve credit for their ability to take charge and control proceedings on the football pitch. Here, we look at the five best referees currently officiating in England's top flight.
5) Robert Jones
Ten games into the 2023/24 season and only Anthony Taylor has reffed more Premier League games than the little-known Merseysider, whose consistently low profile mainly explains his inclusion here.
Because if a good game for a matchday official equates to how little he is noticed then Jones can stand tall, avoiding controversy more than his peers and going about his job with the minimum of fuss or drama.
There was an unfortunate incident earlier this term, when Jermaine Jenas’ emotions got the better of him when watching a North London Derby. Jones was criticised by the former Spurs midfielder for awarding a penalty to Arsenal so make of that what you will.
Elsewhere though, it’s a relatively blemish-free record given the volume of games he presides over.
4) Stuart Attwell
The youngest ever Premier League referee, after debuting at the age of 25, Attwell experienced a tough opening few years in the middle, making a succession of newsworthy gaffes.
His most infamous mistake actually occurred in the Championship, awarding a goal to Reading at Watford’s expense after the ball went wide of the post. Ending 2-2 just imagine backing the Hornets in the football betting.
Further controversies followed.
It is to his enormous credit therefore that Attwell came through all this, now viewed as a seasoned ref who factors in common sense.
Praised for his speed over distance, it affords him better coverage of incidents or in refereeing parlance ‘viewing angles’.
3) Andy Madley
Still seen as a newbie to the top-flight, despite officiating at the highest level for four years now, Madley has gained a reputation for allowing games to flow, a welcomed mindset with the modern game becoming increasingly stop/start.
If that intimates the Yorkshireman can be a soft touch at times nothing could be further from the truth. His card-count – for better or worse – is right up there with the strict authoritarians such as Taylor.
The petty stuff however, he typically lets go for the greater good.
2) Anthony Taylor
No stranger to controversy, Taylor’s no-nonsense approach rubs up all fan-bases the wrong way in equal measure, as perfectly illustrated by the widespread rumpus when he was handed the Chelsea v Liverpool game earlier this season.
Liverpool fans point out Taylor’s Wythenshawe roots and allege a Manchester bias. Chelsea supporters meanwhile are so sure of an ‘agenda’ against their club they once completed a 160,000-strong petition campaigning for him never to ref their games again.
There is also Taylor’s high card-count to consider. Last season, he dished out seven red cards, a league-high.
Yet speak to anyone in the know and they insist the headline-magnet is one of the very best whistle-blowers around, standing for no silliness but also a master at playing advantage.
1) Michael Oliver
England’s representative at last winter’s World Cup, there is a clear reason why Oliver is in a league of his own. More than any other official, he has the respect of the players.
It’s a broad respect that covers many bases, from being approachable and fair but not overly ‘matey’, to rarely shirking the big decisions. Crucially too, more times than not, he gets them right.
If you’ve taken a punt in the sports betting and fear a dodgy call ultimately costing you, this is the man you want in charge.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*