- Kevin Friend was originally appointed to referee Tottenham vs Stoke
- However, the official lives near Spurs’ title rivals Leicester and is a fan
- Premier League have switched referees and Neil Swarbrick will take charge
- Foxes lead second-placed Tottenham by seven points with five games left
- Friend will now referee Newcastle home clash against Manchester City
The Premier League have changed the referee for Tottenham’s crucial game in the title race against Stoke on Monday following pressure on social media.
The original choice of Kevin Friend outraged Spurs fans because he lives in Leicester and admits to being a fan of the Premier League leaders, who have a seven-point lead over the north London club with five games to go.
The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd do not pick Friend to referee matches involving Leicester because of his allegiance, but they normally do not take into consideration secondary factors such as a referee officiating in a match that might have ramifications for the club he supports.
But PGMOL boss Mike Riley had second thoughts over Friend’s appointment because of the importance of the Spurs fixture to the title race and to avoid unnecessary pressure on the referee.
He has been replaced by Neil Swarbrick, who hails from Preston, and Friend will switch to Newcastle’s home tie against Manchester City.
A statement said: ‘Kevin Friend, initially selected for the game, is from Leicester and has attended matches at Leicester City in a personal capacity. Given the context of this match, it was felt unnecessary to add extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment.’
Leicester need just three victories from their remaining games against West Ham, Swansea, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea to lift the title.
Friend told the Leicester Mercury in a 2013 interview: ‘I have got two teams, Bristol City, because I was born in Bristol, and also Leicester because I live here.
‘I do go down to the King Power quite a bit. They have got a good bunch of lads at the minute and a really good manager ni Nigel Pearson – they will succeed.’
Source: Daily Mail