FOOTBALL League referee Simon Hooper will take charge of his first Premier League match on the opening weekend of the 2015-16 season.
The 32-year-old from Wiltshire will oversee newly-promoted Norwich City’s first match in the top-flight since May 2014 against Crystal Palace on Saturday (KO 3pm).
His assistants at Carrow Road are Andy Garratt and Andy Halliday while the fourth official will be Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
Hooper was the fourth official for four Premier League games last season and refereed the League Two play-off final between Southend and Wycombe in his first match in the middle at Wembley Stadium.
He handled 39 games in all competitions last season – brandishing 131 yellow cards, sending off four players and awarding 11 penalties.
In the regular 2014-15 league campaign, the IT services manager officiated 21 times in the Championship, 10 in League One but only twice in League Two.
Hooper handled several notable games including the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern area final first leg between Preston and Walsall in January and Bournemouth’s 3-0 win over Bolton in April which secured their Premier League promotion.
He was also the fourth official for the FA Trophy Final between North Ferriby United and Wrexham in March at the national stadium.
It is a surprise appointment given that Hooper – who is among the so-called “Talent Group” of officials being considered for promotion – has not been elevated to the Select Group with Graham Scott the only official making the step-up from the Football League in the close season.
But Hooper has long held ambitions to become a full-time Premier League official and his selection is testament to how his high his ability is rated by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).
Last term, fellow National List whistlers Paul Tierney, Stuart Attwell and Keith Stroud all received trial games with a view to gaining promotion.
On the opening weekend last season, Hooper made headlines when he appeared to be shoved by Norwich’s Martin Olsson as he sent off the defender in their 1-0 defeat against Wolves at Molineux.
Failing to make the grade at Swindon Town as a striker when released at the age of 16, Hooper took up refereeing and was promoted to the Football League list as a linesman in 2006.
He oversaw the Conference League Cup final in 2008 at the end of his first campaign as a National List referee.
Hooper established himself as a regular in the second tier last season, officiating 17 Championship games – five of which came in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
His first ever Football League game came in the fourth tier when Exeter faced Shrewsbury in August 2007.
Norwich bounced back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after beating Middlesbrough 2-0 in the play-off final at Wembley while Crystal Palace finished 10th in the top-flight ahead of manager Alan Pardew’s first full campaign in charge.