Sam Allison will become the first black man to officiate a Premier League game in 15 years when he takes charge of Sheffield United’s home game against Luton on Boxing Day.
The 42-year-old firefighter will be the first black Premier League referee since Uriah Rennie in 2008. Allison’s appointment to officiate in the Premier League follows a promise by PGMOL chief Howard Webb to diversify top-flight refereeing. The black official took to refereeing 12 years ago.
“Our commitment is to ensure that opportunities are created to ensure that there’s real diversity in the group of decision makers that I lead – and the organisation,” Webb told Mirror Sports earlier this year.
Before joining the refereeing profession, Allison played soccer and featured for clubs like Swindon, Bristol City, Bournemouth, and Exeter before moving down the football pyramid into the semi-professional game.
“We welcome this appointment. It is a further step in the right direction towards refereeing reflecting society and the playing contingent within football,” BAMRef, the Black, Asian and Mixed Heritage refereeing group – set up to identify, support and champion non-white refereeing talent said in a statement.
“It is also the culmination of years of hard work by BAMRef members. We hope to work with Howard Webb to identify and progress more black officials to the top flight.”
Allison, from Wiltshire, joined the fire service part-time in 2006. He did it because he believed it would give him the time and flexibility to combine careers.
“I had to look at something that would give me the time and flexibility to do both careers,” he said. “I’ve gone from being totally operational and ‘Fireman Sam’ getting out there fighting fires and wearing breathing apparatus and doing water rescue and rope rescue, to progressing as a station manager.”
Before he makes his Premier League debut on Boxing Day, Allison has been able to go on to take charge of more than 100 matches in the EFL. However, it won’t be his first exposure to the Premier League.
In October 2022, he was the fourth official in the game between Brighton and Chelsea. Allison is looking beyond just officiating one much. He hopes that it will mark the beginning of his own long career in the league.
“I don’t hide that I want to reach the top,” he said, according to Bein Sports. “I want to be a role model within my community and show representation as a black man in football and being a referee at the same time. My desire has to be to reach the top just to show people that you can do it.
“Pressure comes with it, but when you are fighting fires and saving lives, that is a pressure situation. “Having that visibility is key, but at the same time, you have to have ability, desire, work hard, and take the opportunities when they come forward.”