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The Ref's Red Card

Wednesday 22nd February 2012
Stuart Attwell has been demoted from the Select Group of Referees, who are in charge of Premiership games, after a four year stint marred with controversy.

It has been reported that Attwell and former official Mike Riley, now manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMO), who govern top-flight referees, made a ‘mutual decision' regarding Attwell's future.

In an official statement, Riley said, ‘Throughout his career in the Select Group, Stuart has demonstrated great courage and mental strength in responding to the challenges that he has faced'. Riley added, ‘PGMOL sincerely hopes to be welcoming Stuart back to the Select Group in the future'.


Attwell joined the Select Group in 2008, aged 25, after just one season as a national referee in the Football League. As a result, he was the then youngest ever Premier League referee when he officiated a 1-1 draw between Blackburn Rovers and Hull City. Despite being promoted to the International List of Referees in 2009, Attwell has been at the centre of several controversies since, including incurring the wrath of usually mild-mannered Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, who suggested Attwell lied about why he sent Gary Caldwell off against Stoke in April 2010. Stoke's Danny Higginbotham claimed Attwell was too easily influenced by the supporters in the same game too.

Most recently though, Stuart Attwell, 29, showed Bolton defender Gary Cahill a dubious red card for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity against Tottenham when it seemed Scott Parker was in an unthreatening position. It was a decision that left Bolton boss Owen Coyle ‘totally bemused' and one that Bolton chairman Phil Gartside described as an absolute disgrace'.

Nonetheless, it was Coyle who was the first to publicly slam the demotion. Unable to understand the logic behind the decision, Coyle told the media, ‘Stuart is going to be a terrific referee for many years to come. In the middle of a season, for one young referee to be taken off the list, I don't understand that'. The Trotters manager assured the press there were no hard feelings after the Cahill incident, stating ‘I have spoken to him [Stuart Attwell] since the Cahill incident and I have always found him pleasant and well-mannered'.  

However, ultimately, it seems that this was one error too many for both Attwell himself and Mike Riley as now Attwell, from Warwickshire, will referee Football League matches, starting with Middlesborough versus Reading on Saturday at the Riverside Stadium.

Bradley Jolly
National journalist, sub-editor and football referee. I currently in southwest London but I'm originally from Solihull, West Midlands.

Total articles: 10

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