There is a total of 21 referees in the Premier League who officiate the games throughout the season. Nevertheless, this is not a definite list, and these are just the referees who have been a part of games at the time of writing in the 2022/23 season (just after the half-way point).
Referees take up a variety of roles when they are officiating matches. For example, they might be an assistant referee (linesman/lineswoman) for one match and then the main referee for another. Or they might be given the role of fourth official or video assistant referee. This all varies from match to match.
Some of the more well-known referees in the top flight are Paul Tierney, Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor. These three referees have been involved in the most Premier League games this season ranging from 15 to 17 games refereed each.
All 21 of the referees in the Premier League are listed below, along with the number of games they have refereed (i.e. as the main referee) during the 2022/23 season (at the time of writing) and the number of red and yellow cards they’ve dished out:
|Red Cards Shown
|Yellow Cards Shown
Which referees dish out the most cards?
Referees are required to be firm but fair when in charge of matches and are required to hand out cards when necessary, meaning many fans have a love-hate relationship with certain referees because of decisions made when mediating their team. Referees Anthony Taylor, Paul Tierney and Craig Pawson come out on top with the most yellow cards handed out this season with both handing out north of 55 yellow cards apiece.
Many fans feel referees sometimes give out yellow cards too easily in football nowadays with footballers going down too easily, whereas some fans do not think they give out enough yellow and red cards. As such, being a referee in the EPL is a very tough job and one where it will be impossible to please everyone. Even with the introduction of VAR to football many fans are still not happy with the decisions being made and feel it is ruining the sport. After the first 200 games of the 2022/23 Premier League season, 759 yellow cards had been shown along with 11 red cards; this averages to around 3.8 cards per game which is a fair amount given the rough and tumble of top flight football.
How are Premier League referees selected?
Referees tend to be chosen to officiate the top tier of English football based on a variety of factors. The main ones are: experience, current form (as they are assessed on their performances), whether they support one of the teams involved, how many times they have refereed the clubs playing, and if they are refereeing any forthcoming international games.
Many of the referees currently working in the Premier League have been doing so for a number of years and are used to the high intensity and quality of the EPL. Salaries of referees in the top flight are something else that varies from ref to ref with the experience of the referee being a big factor. Although the figures are not 100% known it is estimated that referees in the Premier League earn between £40,000 and £200,000 each year as a retainer for staying in the league. There is also a reported match fee of around £1,500 per match for the referee in charge, making it quite a healthy wage.
How has VAR affected Premier League refereeing?
Another element that has become more prevalent in football in recent times is the awarding of penalties based on the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR). Since the introduction of VAR generally more penalties have been given in the Premier League due to on-field decisions by the referees being overturned or the fact that the referees can now go and take a second look if they are unsure whether it is a penalty or not.
Although there has not been a particularly substantial increase in the number of penalties awarded since 2018 when VAR was introduced, there has been a slight increase. This creates mixed emotions among fans with some hating the introduction of VAR as it can slow down games due to checks and some fans love it as many of the decisions are more likely to be correct – or they just happen to go the way of the team they support.
So far this season 50 penalties have been awarded in total. This may not seem like a lot but considering this is only around halfway through the season this total could end up being closer to 100 which has been seen in previous seasons with VAR and was not very common in season before VAR in the Premier League. Interestingly, at the time of writing, Fulham have been awarded more penalties than any other side (seven) while Everton, Southampton and table-topper Arsenal have been awarded the fewest (just one each).
It is clear that many factors go into choosing referees and many aspects make them popular or unpopular with fans. However, it is also clear that life in the Premier League for referees is not an easy task with key factors being consistency and the ability to accept that not everyone will be happy with your decisions. Overall referees in the top flight of English football are some of the best in the world with the experience and knowledge of football to back that up.