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Howard Webb

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Howard Webb

Howard Webb

Webb in 2011
Full name Howard Melton Webb
Born (1971-07-14) 14 July 1971
Rotherham, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Other occupation Former police officer
Years League Role
1993–1995 Northern Counties East Assistant referee
1995–1998 Northern Counties East Referee
1996–1998 Football League Assistant referee
1998–2000 Premier League Assistant referee
1998–2000 Football Conference Referee
2000–2003 Football League Referee
2003–2014 Premier League Referee
Years League Role
2005–2014 FIFA listed Referee

Howard Melton Webb, MBE (born 14 July 1971)[1] is an English former professional football referee who officiated primarily in the Premier League from 2003 to 2014, as well as for FIFA as a FIFA international referee from 2005 to 2014.

Webb is counted amongst the all-time top referees by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics[2] and refereed a number of notable matches in England including the FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and the final of the Football League Cup. In 2010, he became the first person to referee the finals of both the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup in the same year.[3]

Throughout his professional career, Webb drew praise for his authoritative and respected approach to refereeing from football bodies, pundits, colleagues, players, and managers.[4][5][5][6][7][8] He announced his retirement in August 2014 to become the technical director of the Professional Game Match Officials Board.[9]

Early life

Webb was born to Sylvia and Billy Webb and grew up in Rotherham, West Riding of Yorkshire.[10] His father was a referee for 35 years.[10]

Refereeing career

Early career

Webb first took up refereeing in local leagues in 1989. In 1993 he progressed to the Northern Counties East League as an assistant referee, becoming a referee for that league two years later.

In 1996, he was appointed as a Football League assistant referee and, in 1998, fulfilled the same function in the Premier League, as well as being promoted to the Football Conference as a full referee.[11] He was a police officer with South Yorkshire Police but took sabbatical leave to concentrate on his refereeing.[12][13]

Professional domestic career

In 2000 Webb was included on the National List of Football League referees and three years later was promoted to the Select Group of professional referees who can take charge of Premier League games.[11] His first game in the top tier of English football was on 18 October 2003 when he took charge of a 0–0 draw between Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.[14] He was appointed to FIFA's international referees' list in 2005.[15]

Since then, Webb has been appointed to referee some of world football's highest-profile matches, including a UEFA Champions League final and a FIFA World Cup final. Following in this section are some key matches Webb has refereed in his career since being promoted to the Premier League and FIFA list of referees.

2005 FA Community Shield

Webb officiated the 2005 Community Shield at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the annual match between the Premier League winners and the FA Cup winners of the previous season. League winners Chelsea went 2–0 up through two Didier Drogba goals, but Cesc Fàbregas netted a goal for FA Cup winners Arsenal 25 minutes before the end. It was a tense finale, but Chelsea held on to secure a 2–1 victory. Webb issued three yellow cards (to Frank Lampard, Claude Makélélé and Fàbregas) in a game that saw 11 substitutions.[16]

2006 FA Trophy final

In May 2006 Webb took charge of the FA Trophy final at Upton Park in London. Grays Athletic beat Woking 2–0 through goals from Dennis Oli and Glenn Poole, both just before half time.[17] No players found their way into the book.

2007 Football League Cup final
Webb refereeing a match in 2007

The 2007 Football League Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was an incident-filled match. Theo Walcott gave Arsenal the lead early in the first half – his first goal for the club, but two Didier Drogba goals gave Chelsea eventual victory.

The match ended with a brawl, with most of the players on the pitch becoming involved. Managers José Mourinho and Arsène Wenger both entered the pitch in an attempt to calm the situation. As a result of the mêlée, Webb sent off Mikel John Obi of Chelsea and Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal, and showed yellow cards to Frank Lampard and Cesc Fàbregas.[18] This was the first time that three red cards had been shown in a League Cup final. Indeed, before this game only three red cards had been shown in all of the previous finals.

2009 FA Cup final

Webb took charge of the 2009 FA Cup final, the 128th final of the world's oldest domestic football cup competition. It was played at Wembley Stadium in London and was the third time that an FA Cup final had been staged at the stadium since it was rebuilt. The match was contested by Chelsea, who had beaten Arsenal 2–1 in their semi-final, and Everton, who had knocked out Manchester United 4–2 on penalties after a 0–0 draw in their semi-final.

Webb refereeing a Premier League match in 2007

After Louis Saha opened the scoring for Everton after just 25 seconds (becoming the fastest goal in an FA Cup final), Didier Drogba equalised in the 21st minute before Frank Lampard scored the winner with 19 minutes left to play, to give Chelsea their fifth FA Cup success.[19] Webb cautioned Mikel John Obi and Frank Lampard of Chelsea and Tony Hibbert, Phil Neville and Leighton Baines of Everton.

European and international career

First international match

Webb's first international game was at Windsor Park, Belfast, in November 2005 when Northern Ireland hosted Portugal in a friendly match. It ended 1–1 with the home side scoring both goals: Northern Ireland went 1–0 down just before half-time through a Stephen Craigan own goal but Warren Feeney salvaged a draw by netting in the second half. Tony Capaldi, Keith Gillespie and James Quinn were booked for Northern Ireland.[20]

2006 UEFA European U-21 Championship

The 2006 European Under-21 Championship qualifying rounds began in August 2004, with the finals taking place in Portugal in May and June 2006.

Webb officiated a group A match between [22]

Webb also took charge of one of the two semi-finals, which saw Ukraine beat Serbia and Montenegro 5–4 on penalties after a 0–0 draw.[23] He was also appointed fourth official for the final in Porto, where the Netherlands beat Ukraine 3–0.[24]

First Champions League match

A UEFA Champions League group match on 26 September 2006 between Steaua Bucureşti and Lyon was Webb's first European appointment. The game at the Ghencea Stadium in Bucharest finished 3–0 to Lyon, with Webb issuing four yellow cards during the course of the match.[25]

2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup

Webb was selected to officiate at the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada and his first appointment was a group D game between Poland and Brazil at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.[26] He then took charge of a group C game between Mexico and Portugal at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto[27] and a group A match between Canada and Congo at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.[28]

Webb was retained for the knock-out stage of the tournament, and refereed a quarter-final in Montreal where Chile defeated Nigeria 4–0 with all four goals being scored in extra time.[29]

UEFA Euro 2008

In December 2007, Webb was selected as England's representative to referee at Euro 2008, with Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey as his assistants.[30]

On 12 June 2008, whilst refereeing his first match of the tournament, a group B game between Austria and Poland, and with less than one minute left in stoppage time, he awarded Austria a penalty kick after he adjudged Poland's Mariusz Lewandowski to have pulled the shirt of Sebastian Prödl. The penalty was converted and the match finished 1–1.[31] Leo Beenhakker, Poland's head coach, described the decision as "inconsistent with the rest of the tournament".[32][33][34] Some commentators praised the decision, describing it as "brave".[35] In the light of UEFA's instructions to referees about conduct at set pieces, the decision to award a penalty in such circumstances was considered by some commentators as a breakthrough in strict implementation of the laws of the game.[33] UEFA official William Gaillard said the decision was not controversial and was correct.[36] On 15 June, Webb was reported as saying that the only incorrect decision he made was to allow Poland's goal, which he said was offside: "To me the penalty was clear and I hope that people later will look at it and realise it was the only decision that could be taken," Webb said. In the same interview he also said that neither he nor his family feel under threat.[37]

On 18 June, Webb refereed his second game of Euro 2008 when he took charge of a group D match in which Greece lost 2–1 to Spain.[38] UEFA stated on 19 June that Webb had not been selected to referee matches in the knock-out phase of the tournament.[39]

2009 FIFA Confederations Cup

In June 2009 Webb was one of the referees at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa where he took charge of two games.

In the final minute of a match between Brazil and Egypt with the scoreline at 3–3 he appeared to signal for a corner kick after Egypt's Ahmed Elmohamady apparently handled the ball to prevent a goal. Webb then sent off the defender and awarded a penalty kick, which Brazil converted to eventually win 4–3. Egypt claimed that Webb took advice from the fourth official who may have seen a television replay and awarded the penalty based on this information, but the complaint was later rejected by FIFA.[40]

Webb also refereed a 0–0 draw between Iraq and New Zealand in Johannesburg.[41] Throughout the tournament, Webb wrote a regular blog[42] detailing his experiences as a referee while at the tournament in South Africa.

2010 UEFA Champions League final

In May 2010 Webb was announced as the referee for the 2010 Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid.[43] He showed yellow cards to Martin Demichelis and Mark van Bommel of Bayern Munich and cautioned Christian Chivu of Inter Milan. Inter won the match 2–0 with both goals being scored by striker Diego Milito, securing their first European Cup/Champions League title in 45 years.

2010 FIFA World Cup

On 24 October 2008 FIFA announced that Webb was on the provisional list of referees for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.[44] On 5 February 2010 FIFA confirmed that Webb had been selected as a referee for the finals.

Webb took charge of a group H match between Spain and Switzerland in Durban, where Switzerland stunned Spain with a 1–0 win;[45] a group F match between Italy and Slovakia in Johannesburg which also resulted in an upset as Slovakia won and ended Italy's chances of progression;[46] and a round of 16 knockout match between Brazil and Chile also in Johannesburg.[47]

On 8 July 2010, FIFA announced that Webb would referee the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain.[48] He was assisted by Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.[49] Webb was the first English referee to take charge of a World Cup final since Jack Taylor in 1974 – a game in which the Netherlands lost to West Germany.[50]

In the 2010 final Webb issued 14 yellow cards, including two to the Netherlands' John Heitinga who was subsequently sent off, more than doubling the former record of six yellows for a World Cup final, set in 1986.[51]

The match was seen as a very difficult one to referee.[52][53][54] After the match Webb was criticised by the Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk and some of his players, and was booed by some fans as he and his fellow officials collected their medals.[55] However, some portions of the world's press condemned the Dutch for their rough play,[56] and some pundits opined that Webb was generous to the Dutch for not showing any red cards to their players until 10 minutes before the end of extra time.[57] Some portions of the Spanish press complained that Webb failed to properly control the game and take enough action against several of the Dutch players, particularly Nigel de Jong for an early high kick on Xabi Alonso.[58] Webb later conceded that had he had a better viewing angle of de Jong's challenge he would have sent him off,[59] and de Jong later admitted he was "lucky" to only receive a yellow card.[60] Dutch legend Johan Cruyff criticised both his countrymen's rough tactics,[61] and Webb for not dealing more harshly with them.[55]

FIFA president Sepp Blatter defended Webb and noted that it was "not easy" to control such a match, saying: "It's not up to me to judge the performances of the officials, I can only say it was a very hard task that the referee trio had on the field of play". Former Premier League referee Jeff Winter said of Webb's performance: "I thought he had a superb game. I find it very difficult to remember a more testing game than that at any level. I thought the players' behaviour and discipline were abysmal. From a referee's point of view, if the players don't want to be controlled it's virtually impossible to control them. Had it had been a referee without his experience of the European game, they might have lost control within the first 30 minutes."[62] Pundit Alan Hansen defended Webb and condemned the Dutch, saying that "Webb tried to make the game flow but on this occasion he was left with no choice."[55] The British Referees' Association said "it would be almost impossible to disagree with any of the bookings he issued",[63] while former FA Cup final referee Keith Hackett noted that "anyone who criticises the officials lacks the knowledge and experience of someone who has refereed" and called on FIFA to punish the Dutch players who castigated Webb to the press.[64]

UEFA Euro 2012

In December 2011 Webb was named one of the 12 referees selected by UEFA to take charge of games at Euro 2012. He was in charge of a group A fixture between Russia and Czech Republic on the opening day in Wrocław, a group C fixture between Italy and Croatia in Poznań, and a quarter-final between the Czech Republic and Portugal in Warsaw.

2013 FIFA Confederations Cup

Webb was selected as a referee for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. He refereed a group A match in Fortaleza between Mexico and Brazil, which ended in a 2-0 win for the home nation; Webb issued five cautions.

2014 FIFA World Cup

Webb took charge of three qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. He refereed the UEFA qualification group D match between Turkey and Romania in October 2012 in Istanbul,[65] the group E match between Norway and Switzerland in September 2013 in Oslo[66] and the group A match between Croatia and Belgium in October 2013 in Zagreb.[67] In January 2014 it was announced that Webb had been included on the referees' list for the finals in Brazil.[68]

On 19 June he officiated the group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast in the capital, Brasília.[69] Webb also refereed the first knockout match on 28 June between Brazil and Chile in Belo Horizonte. Host nation Brazil won a penalty shootout 3–2 after the game finished 1–1 after extra-time.[70]


On 6 August 2014, the Premier League announced that Webb had retired from active refereeing in order to take up the role of technical director of the Professional Game Match Officials Board. Webb said: "Refereeing has given me so much and I think it's important that match officials who have had the rewards remain in the game to pass on their knowledge."[71]


Games and cards

Season Games Total Booked Booked per game Total Red card Red card per game
2000–01 26 58 2.23 1 0.04
2001–02 32 69 2.16 5 0.16
2002–03 39 145 3.72 4 0.10
2003–04 34 92 2.94 9 0.26
2004–05 34 100 2.94 2 0.06
2005–06 47 117 2.49 7 0.15
2006–07 45 156 3.47 9 0.20
2007–08 46 166 3.61 4 0.09
2008–09 48 158 3.29 6 0.13
2009–10 45 177 3.93 5 0.11
2010–11 45 141 3.13 6 0.13
2011–12 51 167 3.28 5 0.10
2012–13 42 148 3.52 5 0.12
Total 534 1,694 3.17 68 0.13

Statistics for all competitions including domestic, European and international. Records prior to 2000-01 are not available.[72]

Cautions and dismissals

Webb issued at least one card in every game he refereed in the 2002–03 and 2004–05 seasons. The first red card he showed in the Premier League was to Michael Svensson of Southampton for a second bookable offence in a 0–0 draw at Bolton Wanderers on 8 November 2003.[73] The 2003–04 season saw Webb issue his highest proportion of red cards yet: nine in 34 games. Between 17 February and 17 March 2007, he showed five red cards all in the 90th minute of matches.

In four fixtures since the 2000–01 season he has issued two red cards in the same game, three times dismissing one player from either side, and once reducing one team (Wimbledon in December 2001) to nine men.[74] He has once shown three red cards in the same match: the 2007 Football League Cup Final.

Webb has sent-off two goalkeepers since 2000-01: Kelvin Davis of Wimbledon in December 2001[75] and John Filan of Wigan Athletic in March 2004.[76]


Webb was handed a one-week demotion to the Football League Championship from officiating in the Premier League in April 2009 — a punishment sporadically imposed on referees who make high-profile contentious errors. Webb had earlier been appointed to referee the 2009 FA Cup final, the highest domestic honour for an official, when he awarded Manchester United a debatable penalty kick while they trailed 2–0 to Tottenham Hotspur. The penalty was converted and United went on to win the match 5–2. Webb later admitted he had made "a mistake" but had awarded the penalty "honestly".[77][78]

Earlier in that year, Webb was in charge of an FA Cup tie between Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. During the first half, Webb declined to award Birmingham a penalty when Richard Stearman appeared to foul Marcus Bent. He later admitted this decision was a mistake. In the second half, Webb accidentally blocked a Radhi Jaïdi pass on the halfway line, gifting possession to Wolverhampton's Michael Kightly who set up his side's second goal in a 2–0 win.[79] After the match, Webb reflected on the events by saying: "I am disappointed to have an influence on a goal like that, it is difficult because the ball comes at you with pace and you think you are in the best position, but then something like that happens and they break away and sod's law says they go and score from it... I have spoken to Birmingham and they have been outstanding having accepted it and shown no animosity at all. I was almost more disappointed with the penalty incident".[79]

In January 2011 Webb officiated Kenny Dalglish's first game in charge of his comeback to Liverpool in their fixture against Manchester United. Dalglish criticised Webb for awarding United a first-minute penalty after deeming Daniel Agger to have fouled Dimitar Berbatov. Dalglish claimed that Berbatov dived, saying: "The penalty is a joke, I've seen the replay and unless the rules have changed it is no penalty". Referring to a red card that Webb later issued to Steven Gerrard for a two-footed lunge, Dalglish said, "I cannot see that as a red card". Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson countered by saying that Webb had got both of those key decisions correct, claiming that for the penalty there was enough force to make Berbatov lose his balance, and that Gerrard's red card challenge was "two-footed and off the ground".[80] Liverpool's Ryan Babel later posted a faked image on Twitter of Webb in a Manchester United shirt after Liverpool's 1–0 defeat; Babel was subsequently charged by the FA with improper conduct and fined £10,000.[81]

Webb was the recipient of criticism from Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas in February 2012 after his team led Manchester United 3–0 but two penalty kicks and a third headed goal saw United salvage a 3–3 draw in a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge. Villas-Boas described Webb's second penalty award for United as "absurd" after the official adjudged Branislav Ivanović to have fouled Danny Welbeck, though television replays suggested contact was minimal. United manager Alex Ferguson said in his post-match interview that Webb should have sent off Chelsea debutant Gary Cahill in the early stages of the game for an apparent professional foul on Welbeck on the edge of the penalty area. Cahill later admitted he was "fortunate" to have not been penalised for the clash.[82]

Personal life

Webb is married with three children.[83] He was a sergeant in the South Yorkshire Police before turning professional as a referee.[10] He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to football.[84][85] He is a Rotherham United supporter.[86]

Webb has been commended for his work in football officiating for being the first man to referee the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same year.[87]

In June 2011 Webb was made president of the Baris Northern Counties East Football League, a league in which he had once officiated.[88] In July 2011 he received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Bedfordshire.[89] In November 2011 he also gained a Honorary Degree from York St John University as a Doctor of Health Sciences.[90]


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  80. ^ "Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish angry at ref Howard Webb". BBC Sport (London). 9 January 2011. 
  81. ^ "FA charges Babel for Webb tweet". ESPN Soccernet. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  82. ^ "Chelsea 3 – 3 Man Utd". BBC Sport (BBC). 5 February 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
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  84. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59647. p. 23. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  85. ^ "New Year Honours unveiled". BBC News. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
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  88. ^ "League Announce New Sponsor + Other AGM News". Toolstation Northern Counties East Football League. 18 June 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  89. ^ "Super nine join Bedfordshire graduates". University of Bedfordshire. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  90. ^ "Honorary graduates". York St John University. 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 

External links

  • Howard Webb Profile at (Archived)
  • Refereeing career statistics at Soccerbase
Preceded by
FIFA World Cup Final 2006
Horacio Elizondo
FIFA World Cup Final Referees
Final 2010
Howard Webb
Succeeded by
FIFA World Cup Final 2014
Nicola Rizzoli
Preceded by
2009 UEFA Champions League Final
Massimo Busacca
UEFA Champions League
Final 2010
Howard Webb
Succeeded by
2011 UEFA Champions League Final
Viktor Kassai
Preceded by
Mike Dean
FA Cup Final
Succeeded by
Chris Foy
Preceded by
Alan Wiley
League Cup Final
Succeeded by
Mark Halsey
Preceded by
Phil Dowd
FA Trophy Final
Succeeded by
Chris Foy
Preceded by
Mike Dean
FA Community Shield
Succeeded by
Martin Atkinson
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