Stuart Attwell

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Stuart Attwell
Stuart Attwell.jpg
Full name Stuart Steven Attwell
Born (1982-10-06) 6 October 1982 (age 33)
Nuneaton, England
Years League Role
2007– The Football League Referee
2008–2012 Premier League Referee
Years League
2009– Referee

Stuart Steven Attwell (born 6 October 1982) is an English football referee from Nuneaton, Warwickshire,[1] who officiates primarily in the Football League.

Attwell made a prominent debut in 2008 as the youngest person ever to referee in the Premier League[2] but was demoted from the Select Group in February 2012, returning to refereeing in the Football League.


Attwell graduated from Staffordshire University in 2004. Refereeing had been a lifelong ambition for him, according to his father. Attwell worked his way up from local games to non-League football, then to the West Midlands League and the Football League.[3]

His promotion to Football League refereeing came ahead of the 2007–08 season, officiating his first match on 11 August 2007 in a League 2 fixture between Hereford United and Rotherham United. He first officiated in League 1 when taking charge of a game between Swansea City and Gillingham. Despite some portions of the media considering some decisions during that match to be "bizarre",[4] Attwell continued to be promoted and on 26 December 2007 he made his League Championship debut officiating a 1–1 draw between Sheffield United and Blackpool. In total he refereed five Championship games during the 2007–08 season. On 26 May 2008 Attwell officiated the League 2 play-off final between Rochdale and Stockport County at Wembley Stadium, won 3–2 by Stockport.[5]

Attwell was included in the Select Group of referees for the 2008–09 season,[6] making him eligible to referee in the Premier League, and granting him full-time employment by the Professional Game Match Officials Association. On 25 June 2008, he was promoted to the list of top flight officials in the Premier League, after just one season in the Football League. This made him the youngest ever Premier League referee at 25 years of age.[1] On 23 August 2008, he made his Premier League debut when he refereed a 1–1 draw between Blackburn Rovers and Hull City.[7]

Less than a month later, Attwell and one of his assistants, Nigel Bannister, were heavily censured for a decision to award an early goal to Reading in a Championship game at Watford on 20 September 2008. Bannister flagged for a goal instead of a corner kick after Watford's John Eustace played the ball over the byline – four yards wide of the goal post – before Reading's Noel Hunt hooked it back into play. Attwell awarded Reading a goal.[8] The incident, dubbed in the media as a "ghost goal", led to both Attwell and Bannister being dropped from their duties the following weekend.[9][10]

Six weeks after the Watford-Reading game, Attwell refereed an East Midlands derby between Derby County and Nottingham Forest on 2 November 2008. The match finished 1–1 but Attwell disallowed two Derby goals in the final few minutes. He also booked eight players and showed a straight red card to Forest midfielder Lewis McGugan.[11] Derby manager Paul Jewell was especially vocal in his dismay at Attwell's performance, accusing the official of "losing control" of the game and "robbing" the Rams of a victory.[12] The press furore around his display[13][14] saw Attwell called in for a meeting with the referees' chief Keith Hackett[15] and he was demoted from the following week's fixture list.[16] Days later, Jewell claimed that a member of the Football Association had contacted him and told him that a disallowed goal by Miles Addison should have stood.[17]

On 20 December 2008, Attwell was added to the international list of referees for 2009.

Attwell has also received some criticism after Premier League officiating. In April 2010, Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martínez accused Attwell of "lying" after he issued Wigan defender Gary Caldwell a debatable straight red card in a match against Manchester City.[18] Later that month, Attwell was accused of being influenced by "who shouted the loudest" by Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham after his team's 2–1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers.[19]

In July 2010, Attwell officiated in Japanese J. League matches for three weeks. Attwell and Anthony Taylor were sent to Japan as part of referee exchange programmes signed between the English FA and Japanese FA.[20]

On 25 September 2010, Attwell allowed a controversial Liverpool goal in a match at Anfield between Liverpool and Sunderland. From a free kick in his own half, Sunderland defender Michael Turner touched the ball back to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who apparently believed the ball was still dead. Fernando Torres ran on with the ball to draw the goalkeeper and then passed to Dirk Kuyt who scored into an empty net. Following a discussion with his assistant, Attwell deemed that the ball had been active once Turner had touched it, and Dirk Kuyt's goal was ruled valid. The match ended 2–2. After the game Attwell received heavy criticism from Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who branded the decision 'a joke'. However, the Professional Game Match Officials defended Attwell, saying he made the correct decision to allow the goal.[21]

In December 2011 Attwell came under fire for showing Bolton Wanderers defender Gary Cahill a straight red card for a professional foul in a match against Tottenham Hotspur. Cahill fouled Spurs midfielder Scott Parker ten yards from the halfway line and the official's decision to send-off the defender for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity left Bolton's manager Owen Coyle "totally bemused" while Spurs boss Harry Redknapp admitted he was "surprised" the card was red considering Parker was "so far away from goal". Bolton club chairman Phil Gartside added that he felt Attwell's decision was an "absolute disgrace" and said the club would appeal Cahill's automatic one-match ban.[22] The Football Association subsequently rescinded the ban after hearing Bolton's appeal.[23]

In February 2012, Attwell was demoted from the list of Select Group Referees and returned to Football League duty on the National List. The move was said to come by mutual consent. In a statement, Professional Game Match Officials Limited general manager Mike Riley backed Attwell to improve as a referee and return to the top level: "Throughout his career in the Select Group Stuart has demonstrated great courage and mental strength in responding to the challenges that he has faced. Stuart has a high level of maturity and responsibility and I'm convinced that he has a long-term future as a referee at the very highest level. PGMOL sincerely hopes to be welcoming Stuart back to the Select Group in the future."

In November 2014, in a match between League One sides Notts County and Yeovil Town at Meadow Lane, Attwell showed Notts midfielder Gary Jones a red card for a challenge on Yeovil defender Nathan Smith, deeming the challenge to be reckless. Upon review of video evidence, it appeared Jones won the ball and had not made a two-footed tackle; the game eventually went on to end as a 2-1 win for Yeovil. Notts manager Shaun Derry confirmed that the club would appeal the red card;[24] an appeal that was successful. [25]

Career statistics[edit]


Season Games Total Booked Booked per game Total Red card Red card per game
2007–08 32 52 1.62 9 0.28
2008–09 30 94 3.13 8 0.26
2009–10 26 95 3.65 4 0.15
2010–11 25 79 3.16 2 0.08
2011–12 32 102 3.19 6 0.19
2012–13 44 129 2.93 3 0.07

Statistics for all competitions, including domestic, European and international. No records available prior to 2007–08.[26]


Season Games Total Booked Booked per game Total Red card Red card per game
2010 2 18 9.00 0 0.00


  1. ^ a b Vitalnetwork Ltd. "Hereford United – Ref Watch: Stuart Attwell". Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  2. ^ McKenzie, Andrew (2008-06-25). "BBC SPORT | Football | Premier League | Premier League names youngest ref". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  3. ^ "Staffs graduate is Premier League's youngest ever referee". Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "BBC Football – Martinez pleased with fightback". BBC News. 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  5. ^ "SB Atwell 2007–08". Soccerbase. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "PGMOL Coaching Structure 2008/09 Confirming Attwell as a Select Group Referee" (PDF). Ref World. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Cheese, Caroline (2008-08-23). "BBC Football – Premier League Blackburn 1–1 Hull". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  8. ^ "Watford 2–2 Reading". BBC News. 20 September 2008. 
  9. ^ Mike Walters. "Exclusive: Blunder Watford v Reading referee Stuart Atwell axed from Carling Cup tie". Mirror Online. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Assistant referee Bannister dropped after phantom goal". Daily Mail (London). 23 September 2008. 
  11. ^ "Refs baffling display leaves Rams puzzled and angry after rousing end to clash". Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  12. ^ "Jewell – "Rams where robbed".". BBC Sport. 3 November 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  13. ^ Lansley, Peter (3 November 2008). "Stuart Attwell decisions spark new storm". (London). Retrieved 3 December 2011. (subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ Poll, Graham (2 November 2008). "Headache for Hackett with new referees Attwell and Jones at the centre of attention". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  15. ^ "Hackett to meet Attwell". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Lansley, Peter. "Referee Stuart Attwell axed after weekend blunders at Derby County". (London). Retrieved 3 December 2011. (subscription required (help)). 
  17. ^ "Jewell – referees official rang to say late miles goal was OK". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 
  18. ^ "Wigan's Roberto Martínez stands by referee criticism after Man City game". The Guardian (London). 13 April 2010. 
  19. ^ "Referee Stuart Atwell swayed by Bolton's 'loud shouters' before equaliser, moans Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham". Daily Mail (London). 19 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "English refs to officiate in Japan". Japan Football Association. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  21. ^ Nakrani, Sachin (2010-09-25). "Chaos reigns at Liverpool as Steven Gerrard denies Sunderland victory". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  22. ^ "Cahill has ban overturned by FA". BBC News. 6 December 2011. 
  23. ^ "Coyle handed Cahill boost". The Bolton News. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Games refereed by Stuart Attwell in 2011/2012". Soccer Base. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 

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