ENGLISH referee Martin Atkinson will take charge of the 2015 Uefa Europa League Final between Sevilla and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Poland on May 27.
The 44-year-old will oversee Wednesday night’s showpiece at the National Stadium in Warsaw as the holders take on the Ukranian outfit who have advanced to this stage against the odds.
The Bradford-based whistler will be assisted by experienced linesmen Mike Mullarkey and Stephen Child while the fourth official is Pavel Kralovec of the Czech Republic.
Premier League referees Andre Marriner and Anthony Taylor will be additional assistant referees while linesman Jake Collin complete the officiating team as a reserve official.
Atkinson has handled 67 previous Uefa fixtures since becoming an international referee in 2006 with only one of them coming in the Europa League this term when Sevilla beat La Liga rivals Villarreal in the last 32 second leg.
He has also overseen eight Champions League matches in 2014-15 including the quarter-final second leg between Bayern Munich and Porto and Juventus’ 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final.
Atkinson admitted he was “delighted” and “surprised” when informed he would be the man in the middle for the game.
“I am very honoured to be appointed to this important Uefa final and proud to represent the FA and my colleagues, not just in the Select Group but English referees as a whole,” Atkinson said in a statement on the FA’s website.
“I would like to thank my family, friends, colleagues and finally my team for their support in helping me to achieve this dream appointment. It’s a very proud moment in my career.”
It has been a largely consistent season for the Leeds United supporter who has received several high-profile appointments and shown his capabilities to perform at the highest level.
His Premier League and Fifa colleague Mark Clattenburg was widely expected to be selected after Jon Moss was preferred to take charge of the FA Cup Final.
But Atkinson has undoubtedly deserved the recognition from the Uefa Referees Committee for his outstanding campaign and is now seen as the leading contender to be England’s representative at the European Championships in France next summer.
After Clattenburg was chosen for the Uefa Super Cup contest at the start of the season, this appointment only further illustrates how highly English officials are regarded in world football.
Atkinson has previously been the fourth official to Howard Webb for the 2010 Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu and went to Euro 2012 as an additional assistant referee.
He has handled 46 games across all competitions this season – brandishing 177 yellow cards, sending off 10 players and awarding 12 penalties.
Besides his European exploits, among his other 2014-15 highlights are semi-finals in both the FA Cup and League Cup, two Liverpool v Manchester United clashes, Merseyside and north London derbies, two Euro 2016 qualifiers and a prestigious international friendly between Brazil and Chile.
The Fifa whistler also abandoned the Euro 2016 qualification encounter between fierce rivals Serbia and Albania back in October after just six minutes amid crowd disturbances, violence erupting on the pitch and a quadcopter being flown in the stadium.
In February, he produced one of his most finest displays of the campaign at the Vetlins Arena in the Champions League last 16 first leg tie when Real Madrid faced Schalke.
However, the west Yorkshireman was branded incompetent in February for his handling of Chelsea’s Premier League match with Burnley in which he failed to send off Ashley Barnes for a reckless challenge on Nemanja Matic, who was dismissed for his reaction.
He also turned down three Chelsea penalty appeals and was left out for the next round of Premier League games before returning to action.
Domestically, Atkinson has completed the set of major finals having refereed the 2007 FA Community Shield, the 2011 FA Cup Final, the 2013 Championship Play-Off Final, the 2014 Capital One Cup Final and 2014 Women’s FA Cup Final.
After starting as a Football League linesman in 1998, promotion to the National Group list of referees followed two years later and Atkinson received his first Premier League game in April 2005 – just two years after his debut in the Conference.
He was called up to the Fifa list of international referees the year after, oversaw his first match in the Champions League proper in 2008 and was part of the Uefa Elite Category from the 2009-10 season.
Atkinson is still remembered for awarding a ghost goal in an FA Cup semi-final in 2012 between Tottenham and Chelsea, who won 5-1 at Wembley, when Juan Mata’s shot was cleared before crossing the goalline.
Meanwhile, the Uefa Champions League Final between Barcelona and Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6 will be refereed by Turkey’s Cuneyt Cakir.
Unai Emery’s Sevilla are seeking to become the first four-time winners of the competition and retain the trophy after thrashing Fiorentina 5-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals while they have only lost once since the start of March.
Myron Markevych’s Dnipro are in their first major European final after edging past Napoli in the semi-finals and it will be their 19th game in the Europa League this term.
The winners will automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League.