KEVIN FRIEND has become the latest Premier League referee to hang up his whistle – and add to the scrutiny on the new generation of top-flight officials.

Friend, 50, who has been on the Prem list since the 2009-10 season, will move to a new job with PGMOL.

Kevin Friend is retiring from his role as a Premier League referee

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Kevin Friend is retiring from his role as a Premier League refereeCredit: Getty

He will fulfil the newly-created role as manager of the Select Group Two referees, who look after Championship matches and can be the fourth official in the Premier League.

The Leicestershire-based official’s career highlight came in 2019 when he was the man in the middle for the FA Cup final as Manchester City thumped Watford 6-0.

Friend, who hilariously booked the crowd in a pre-season friendly, also oversaw the League Cup final in 2013 and the Community Shield the year before and was ref when Luis Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic.

This season he showed just two red cards in 18 top-tier matches – both for second yellow cards.

Dean soaks up sun on holiday, plays golf and sinks pints in retirement
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He follows fellow veterans Mike Dean, Jon Moss and Martin Atkinson into retirement, leaving a potential dearth of experienced refs for the start of next season.

PGMOL had already announced Tom Bramall, who has only been a referee for three seasons, was being promoted to Select Group One and on to the Prem panel.

His arrival followed on from last season’s elevation of Aussie Jarred Gillett, John Brooks, Tony Harrington and Michael Salisbury.

The quartet took charge of just 19 Prem games between them.

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Moss, Dean and Atkinson were three of just seven refs to control more than 20 Prem games last term.

And two of those – World Cup refs Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor – will be unavailable for some weekends next term because of their Uefa commitments.

With 16 match rounds squeezed in before the mid-season World Cup break, it means a number of the relatively less experienced referees will be handed key early-season appointments by refs’ chief Mike Riley.

Friend joined the Premier League list of referees in 2009

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Friend joined the Premier League list of referees in 2009Credit: PA:Empics Sport
He was in charge when Branislav Ivanovic was bitten by Luis Suarez in 2013

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He was in charge when Branislav Ivanovic was bitten by Luis Suarez in 2013Credit: EPA

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