The legendary Premier League referee Mike Dean is to quit at the end of this season, although he may still be back to claim more red card victims remotely as a full-time video assistant referee.
The 53 year-old is in negotiations with the body that governs English officials, Professional Game Match Officials (PGMOL), to continue as one of only two full-time Vars who are not required to do any on-field refereeing as part of their weekly duties. Dean has been on the select group and a Premier League official since 2000, during which time he has taken charge of more Premier League games and issued more red cards than any other.
As of the last round of fixtures, Dean had refereed 553 Premier League matches and issued 114 reds – he reached his century to some acclaim three years ago with the dismissal of Ashley Young during a Manchester United defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Famous for his blunt refusals to enter into discussions with players, and a strong line in withering looks, Dean is a very popular member of the elite officials group. He has been trusted with some of the biggest games in the league over the years.
Dean was set to quit at the end of last season but was persuaded by Mike Riley, the managing director of PGMOL, to stay on as younger referees gained more top-flight experience this year. The organisation faces losing some of its most experienced names over the next few years with Andre Marriner, Martin Atkinson, Kevin Friend, Jon Moss and Graham Scott all over the age of 50.
Dean is now in talks with Riley about a role as a full-time Var next season. Currently the only referee to work exclusively on the monitors at Stockley Park is Lee Mason, who quit as an on-field referee last season. There is yet to be agreement on the appropriate salary levels for full-time Var officials. PGMOL is currently discussing internally with referees with Premier League and Championship experience about the prospect of switching to full-time Var.
A Premier League stalwart, Dean has never hit the same heights with Uefa or Fifa, although he has refereed two FA Cup finals – in 2008 and 2011. He has taken charge of Champions League and Europa League games as well as international World Cup and European Championship qualifiers. He retired from the international Fifa list at the age of 45, as per protocol.
The BBC commentator Steve Bower hinted during Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Southampton and Manchester City that the tie could be Dean’s last in the competition with him unlikely to be selected for the semi-finals or the final.
English refereeing is facing the biggest changes in a generation over the next few years as the Premier League introduces the Elite Referee Development Plan to fast-track the best young referees and give greater support to existing select groups of officials.