Premier League Career: 2000-2009
First Premier League Match: West Ham United 0-1 Leicester City (23 August 2000)
Final Premier League Match: Chelsea 2-0 Blackburn Rovers (17 May 2009)
In nine seasons of top-flight officiating, Rob Styles took charge of 212 Premier League matches. He was one of the most controversial officials in the Premier League era and never shied away from annoying supporters and managers with some of his key decisions.
Styles began refereeing in 1987 and nine years later, was appointed to the National list. He started to make his breakthrough at the start of the millennium, taking charge of the Second Division play-off final between Gillingham and Wigan Athletic. He was also the fourth official in 2000 at both the FA Trophy and LDV Vans Trophy finals.
In the same year, he was promoted to the Premier League officiating list and his first game came in the second round of matches in the 2000-2001 season. For the record, Darren Eadie scored the only goal as Leicester City won 1-0 at Upton Park against West Ham United. In the same game, West Ham’s Igor Stimac was sent off.
He became a FIFA referee in 2002 and three years later, was in-charge for the 2005 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United. He sent off Jose Antonio Reyes in the closing stages of extra-time before the match went to penalties, won ultimately by Arsenal.
Based in Waterlooville, Styles showed the yellow card to offending players a whopping 689 times. He gave 57 penalties, including 11 in the 2007-2008 campaign alone. The lowest moment of his career came in August 2007 when he put in a comical display at Anfield. He awarded Chelsea a penalty in the second half when adjudging Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda, even though the ball was nowhere near Malouda and replays showed no contact between the players. Frank Lampard converted the spot-kick, earning Chelsea a point and leaving Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez generally baffled by the decision.
He booked nine players on that afternoon and was at the centre of another talking point when he appeared to show a yellow card to both John Terry and Michael Essien, who had been cautioned earlier in the match. He later clarified that only Terry was booked in the incident (shown below).
Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard piled the pressure on the embattled ref afterwards, telling the Evening Standard: “The referee didn’t play well. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and I thought he eventually cracked. I hope he apologises. When players make mistakes they have to come out and say sorry so we’ll see what he has to say.”
Styles later telephoned Benitez to apologise for his cock-up but Keith Hackett confirmed shortly afterwards that he would be dropped for the next round of Premier League matches. Ultimately, it would be the beginning of the end for his career.
In January 2009, he dismissed West Bromwich Albion’s Paul Robinson against Manchester United in a game where the visitors’ cruised to a 5-0 victory. However, the FA elected to rescind the red card given in the match for a challenge on Ji-Sung Park. He felt any support from the governing body was gone after this escapade and although he carried on until the end of the season, the zest was gone.
In the summer of 2009, Styles decided enough was enough and quit refereeing. Graham Poll wrote in his Daily Mail column: “He cared deeply about his refereeing; dedicating himself to serving the game he loves. However, the fact that the majority of the football-watching public will merely shrug their shoulders in indifference at this news or say ‘Good’ proves the lack of understanding of the modern referee.”