Premier League Referee Review #1
Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Season 2011/12



By Alex Byrom
Referees Editor



Name: Martin Atkinson (South Yorkshire)

Total matches refereed (2011-12): 40

Total Premier League Matches refereed: 27

Total Penalties awarded: 64 in Premier League

Card Count: 146 yellow/11 red88/9 in Premier League

Average Number of Cards per game: 3.9 3.81 in Premier League

My Season Rating: 6.5/10

Martin Atkinson. Martin Atkinson. Overall, a season to forget for many if not all our officials with the bad decisions outweighing the good ones, and once again Martin Atkinson was right in the thick of it. Leading red card producer for the last three seasons now, it was a season of many howlers and much criticism for England's second most senior referee...

A big game referee for many years, a FIFA official for the same amount of time, you would be delighted to get him as your referee for the day. Yet, I believe this season has been an aftershock of last season: on 1st March 2011, the South Yorkshire whistler gave a debatable penalty to Chelsea against Manchester United to hand the Blues a 2-1 win. On the receiving end of some flack by all sections of the footballing world - including Sir Alex Ferguson who was handed a four-match touchline ban, had a bad influence on his career; an influence, an image, a status he so very tried to diminish this season. This can be seen by the number of Manchester United matches he refereed in 2011-12: just the one. 

When there's a match changing decision, or a controversial decision, or a decision that sends chins to the floor, Atkinson is always there. He doesn't get every decision wrong, but most of the time he either makes the wrong decision or he ignores it and gets the wrong decision. He isn't afraid of shying away from making the big game-changing decisions. This season with 9 Premier League red cards tells its own story. 

In his opening two matches of the season he had awarded two red cards: Firstly to Clint Hill for foul and abusive language after the final whistle in QPR's 4-0 home defeat to Bolton; secondly to Emmanuel Frimpong for Arsenal against Liverpool as they eventually lost 2-0. Both correct decisions, but in view of the Hill incident, maybe it could have been avoided had he taken action earlier. 

His good early form saw him rewarded with a Euro 2012 qualifying match between Bosnia and Belarus, and in typical European fashion numerous bookings and two red cards, and following that he was awarded the match between Barcelona and AC Milan at the Camp Nou in the opening match of the Champions League. 

It was in the Merseyside derby again where his season hit a stumbling block in October at Goodison Park. On 16 minutes he decided to dismiss Jack Rodwell for a challenge on Lucas Leiva. Never a foul. Never a bad tackle. Never a red card. What does he produce? A red card. He did regain control and was correct on his award of a Liverpool penalty which Dirk Kuyt was denied by Tim Howard. Rodwell's card was subsequently overturned by the FA panel. 

Because of this terrible decision, he only had one Premier League match in the next month in a block that saw him oversee two European Championship matches and two Champions League matches. 

The next time he refereed Liverpool, another red card went in their favour, this time against Premier League leaders Manchester City. Substitute Mario Balotelli was sent off for an apparent elbow on Martin Skrtel for a second yellow card at Anfield on 26th November. But it wasn't the last time he was to dismiss the Italian, and with three Liverpool matches refereed and three red cards to the opposition, you can't help but fathom: was he always in favour of Liverpool? 



The South Yorkshireman dismisses Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell in October's Merseyside Derby

As the New Year began, so a lot to look forward to: A title battle in Manchester; Newcastle attempting to gatecrash the Champions League from London; and six teams all looking as if they don't have the qualities to reamin in the Premier League. 

But the red card count was ever increasing and he awarded a terrible decision in Stoke's 1-0 home loss to Sunderland. He sent off Robert Huth for a sliding lunge on Michael Turner. He was nowhere near the ball, yet was nowhere near the man either. Only he knows why the red card was produced. The Black Cats went on to win 1-0. Tony Pulis was left fuming afterwards saying that Atkinson did not take the wintery conditions into consideration.

In his first 'big' clash since November, at White Hart Lane, it was twelve months on from that forgettable night at Stamford Bridge, and his first meeting with Manchester United since then; he was supposed to oversee their FA Cup fourth round tie at Anfield in January but withdrew through illness. But in fairness he had a superb match. He did well to spot Emmanuel Adebayor's handball in the build-up to what would have been the opening goal for Spurs shortly before half-time, before refereeing a drab London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham at Stamford Bridge soon after - his first Premier League match at the West London stadium this season.

Before that, he was the man in the middle for an important relegation six pointer between Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers at the Reebok Stadium on 10th March which potentially could go a long way in deciding who remains in the Premier League and who is relegated to the Championship. At 0-0, a goal was not awarded to QPR as Atkinson in conjunction with assistant referee Bobby Pollock when Clint Hill's header had crossed the line before being pushed out by Adam Bodgan. They went on to lose the game 2-1 leaving Hoops boss Mark Hughes enraged with the officials and put another stain on Atkinson's image for the 2011-12 campaign.

Two more big games followed where his performance varied every minute. In the top six race at St James's Park in March, Newcastle comfortably beat Liverpool 2-0. He was right on the spot to book Andy Carroll for diving on his return to Tyneside. An excellent decision. He then sent off Pepe Reina for putting his head into James Perch's face- a bit soft but right, but if I was him, I would have cautioned Perch for what was a pathetic jump to the floor pretending Reina had headbutted him but he dealt with the incdent really well. 

But it was a key match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates that the spotlight would be on. Talk about inconsistency - he was inconsistent across the whole match. Throughout the 90 minutes, Mario Balotelli could have been sent off at least five times, and then the West Yorkshire man finally had enough, it was the best decision he had made in the game - making up for his earlier mishaps. It wasn't long into the match when Balotelli stamped on Song. Atkinson admitted afterwards that he'd seen it but took no action. He then missed a blatant penalty on Van Persie, who was thrown to the ground by Kompany. Balotelli was throwing himself about - and when he was finally booked it was one foul to late. Balotelli's tackle he was sent off for - a second booking - could, arguably, have been a red in itself but at least he had got rid of the Italian. 

A week later he was chosen - along with Howard Webb - to officiate an FA Cup Semi-Final. He was appointed to Chelsea against Spurs, which the Blues won 5-1. But the match will be unfortuantely remembered for the 'ghost goal'. With an even game and Chelsea leading 1-0, there was all sorts of confusion. Had the ball crossed the line? It was definitely blocked on the line. The linesman hadn't flagged, so how could he be sure?

But Martin Atkinson blew for a goal and with it went Tottenham's hopes. Replays were inclonclusive. Moments later, Tottenham scored through Bale, but could he have sent off Cech for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity for his foul on Adebayor? It remains to be seen. I'm not sure so I have to agree with him. His first game after the FA Cup semi-final was a terrific performance in the Europa League semi-final second leg between Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Lisbon at the San Mames Stadium.

In a low key finale, he was dropped for the latest round of matches and didn't return until the penultimate match of the season when overseeing Fulham's 2-1 win over Sunderland in the Premier League at Craven Cottage. In addition, he went on to receive another top-flight appointment on the final day of the season in charge of Norwich City's home match with Aston Villa at Carrow Road.

In the summer, he travels to the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine as part of the officiating team representing England at the European championships in the role of an additional assistant referee along with Howard Webb, Mike Mullarkey, Peter Kirkup, Stephen Child and Mark Clattenburg.

I have given him a rating of 6.5/10. This is due to his bad decisions costing teams' games or deciding a match that possibly wouldn't have happened. He did make some great decisions during the season, and that's why he is still one of the best. But a season to forget and he will have to make sure he's more like a FIFA referee next season, not like a level five referee. He will still get the big games; how many though is a big question. He needs to make a more authorative decision, go with what he's got not what he thinks. Maybe use common sense a bit more. But if he continues, he will continue to recieve unfair tags, and we know he's capable of refereeing top matches. A better season beckons. (Hopefully!?)

Linesman Bob Pollock (left) and referee Martin Atkinson (right) were walking a fine line after failing to spot a QPR goal in their defeat to Bolton


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