Mark Atkinson (England)

by Rafae Alam

Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, the English football referee works most of his games for the Premier League, but officiates for FIFA as well. He first stepped on the pitch as an official in 1995, when he served as an assistant referee for The Football League. Working his way up through the ranks, he was promoted in 2005 to the list of Select Group Referees, the officials who work matches for the Premier League. He already has some impressive fixtures under his belt, such as the finals of the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League, and this summer he will add to his impressive resume by officiating at the 2016 Euro Cup.1

Atkinson has a rare record of sending off players. In fact, between 2003 and 2006, he issued only an average of 0.08 red cards per game.2 Although he has an impressive record, it is important to note that it isn’t spotless. Perhaps one of his biggest blunders came in September 2010, when he was demoted to the position 0f fourth official after blowing the final whistle during the Everton-Manchester United match as Everton were developing an attacking play that could have potentially scored them the winner.3 Atkinson also gave a controversial red card, which was later rescinded, to Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell in an October 2011 match against Liverpool.


Atkinson issues a yellow card during a 2010 match between Birmingham City and Arsenal | Source: Originally posted to Flickr as Alexander Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Stephen Carr. CC by 2.0.

More recently, in the 2016 Capital One Cup, he was accused of “arrogance” by Everton player Phil Jagielka when he jokingly remarked about the defending of the captain after erroneously awarding a goal to opponent Manchester City. Right before City’s Raheem Sterling crossed the ball into the box, it clearly went out of play, but only by about half an inch. Everton players obviously had every right to be upset, but Jagielka was criticized for taking Atkinson’s comments to the media, with some people remarking that the players need to “grow up.”4

Other sources of controversy include the the 2012 FA Cup semi-final, where Atkinson awarded a goal to Chelsea against Tottenham, despite the fact that the ball clearly had not crossed the line. Of course, Chelsea won that match 5 to 1, so you can’t really blame Atkinson for the outcome.4

Much of Atkinson’s refereeing career intersected with the football career of Steven Gerrard, who wrote in his autobiography that he “can’t stand him (Atkinson).”4 Nevertheless, the Premier League calls Atkinson one of its most respected officials. His rise through the ranks truly was extraordinary, suggesting top-class officiating.1 Looking ahead to Euro Cup 2016, we can expect competence, fairness, and discipline from Atkinson, and few, if any, red cards. Of course, Everton players might have something to say about that.


  1. Martin Atkinson, Referee Stats | Barclays Premier League. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2016, from
  2. Martin Atkinson. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2016, from
  3. Football, M. (2010, September 13). Goodison row referee sidelined. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from
  4. King, D. (2016, January 28). Everton captain Phil Jagielka claims ‘arrogant’ ref Martin Atkinson told him ‘your defending is brilliant’ as he moaned about dodgy Manchester City goal. Retrieved April 30, 2016, from

How to cite this page: “Mark Atkinson (England)”, Written by Rafae Alam (2016). European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).

One thought on “Mark Atkinson (England)

  1. William Hague

    It will be interesting to see how political the assignment of referees will be. Will Atkinson be allowed to referee the Chelsea game or will someone else be chosen for concerns over a peaceful match? I don’t know if there is strategic placement of referees to call matches with as little history of past conflict as possible. If so, that practice can slip into a form of match fixing where referees are chosen to call matches with intentions other than the outcome of a peaceful match.

    It is also incredible to me how one bad call from a referee can cause a demotion back down into the ranks. That puts tremendous pressure on the ref and there is really no room for error. Interesting dynamics in a rare profession.

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