MIKE Dean will take charge of the first Premier League game of the 2016-17 season when Hull City host Leicester City on Saturday.
The 48-year-old will be in the middle at the KCOM Stadium as the newly-promoted Tigers host the champions in the eagerly-awaited lunchtime match (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be ably assisted by Simon Long (Devon) and Simon Bennett (Staffordshire), while the fourth official is Lee Mason (Lancashire).
It’s the second time Dean will oversee the season opener in recent years, after handling Swansea City’s 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2014.
The Wirral-born official, who is now based in north Wales, is the proverbial safe pair of hands when there is no margin for error and has been entrusted to control the first top-flight match since the summer rule changes.
Dean – who first took up the whistle in 1985 – has been refereeing in the Premier League since 2001 and spent a decade on the Fifa list before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 45 in 2013.
The Tranmere Rovers fan only officiated in four competitions last season and was at the helm for three Championship games – including Middlesbrough’s 1-1 draw with Brighton in the automatic promotion decider on the final day.
Three of his 33 Premier League matches involved Leicester and all were at the King Power Stadium – their dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa in September, 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace in October and 3-0 success over Stoke in January.
He last encountered Hull in the goalless draw at Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round in February.
Incidentally, Dean was heavily criticised for his display in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge last term – dismissing Gunners duo Santi Cazorla and Gabriel but failing to send off Diego Costa, who raised his hands to Laurent Koscielny.
He was subsequently branded a ‘petulant schoolteacher’ who ‘sucks the life out of games’ by BBC pundit Garth Crooks while Gunners boss Arsene Wenger accused him of being ‘weak’ and ‘naïve’.
Dean’s major honours include the 2004 Community Shield, 2004 FA Trophy Final, Championship Play-Off Finals in 2006, 2009 and 2015, the 2008 FA Cup Final and the 2011 League Cup Final.
The managerless Tigers, who beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Wembley in May to secure an immediate top-flight return, have endured a torrid summer following a series of injuries, a lack of signings and boss Steve Bruce’s resignation.
They will be under the stewardship of former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes will begin the defence of the Premier League crown they won against all odds last season after losing 2-1 to Manchester United in last weekend’s Community Shield.
Bobby Madley will be the man in the middle for Manchester City’s Premier League opener against Sunderland in Saturday’s evening kick-off.
The 30-year-old, from west Yorkshire, has been appointed to oversee Pep Guardiola and David Moyes’s first competitive games in charge of their respective clubs at the Etihad Stadium (KO 17:30 BST, live on BT Sport).
The Huddersfield Town fan will be assisted by Peter Kirkup (Northamptonshire) and Marc Perry (west Midlands), with Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire) on fourth official duties.
Madley has already refereed two European qualifiers so far this term and was fourth official for Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Leicester City in the Community Shield last weekend.
The Ossett-based whistler, who has been a referee since 2001, surprisingly received more responsibility last term but excelled with a number of impressive displays.
He was the fourth official for the Capital One Cup Final in March and then became the youngest ever referee to handle the Championship Play-Off Final in Hull’s 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday – his first game as a referee at Wembley.
Madley officiated 37 games in all competitions in 2015-16 – 26 of which were in the Premier League. He brandished 108 yellow cards, sent off eight red cards and awarded 14 penalties – more spotkicks than any other Select Group official.
He encountered City more than any other team last season with six games in total – 4-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth in April, 2-1 home victories over Swansea and Norwich, 2-1 defeat by West Ham in September, and January’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg loss at Everton.
Madley also took charge of the Black Cats on four occasions last season – most recently in February’s 2-2 draw at Liverpool as well as December’s 3-1 defeat at Arsenal and 2-2 draw against Aston Villa at Villa Park 12 months ago.
But the game Sunderland fans will remember most is the 3-0 win over Newcastle in October in Madley’s first Wear-Tyne derby, in which he awarded the Black Cats a penalty and sent off Magpies skipper Fabricio Coloccini for a professional foul.
Madley – one of eight Fifa referees from England – is the younger brother of Football League referee Andy, who was promoted to the new Select Group 2 over the summer.
Kevin Friend has been assigned to Middlesbrough’s first game back in the Premier League against Stoke City on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
The 45-year-old, from Leicestershire, will be in the middle at the Riverside Stadium when Aitor Karanka’s side host the Potters.
The experienced Darren Cann (Norfolk) and Jake Collin (Liverpool) will be the assistant referees, while Football League referee Nigel Miller (County Durham) is the fourth official.
Friend, who refereed the 2012 Community Shield and 2013 Capital One Cup Final, has handled almost 150 Premier League games since his first in September 2009.
He officiated 31 games in all competitions last season – brandishing 99 yellow cards, six red cards, and awarding seven penalties.
Andre Marriner and Michael Oliver will take charge of Sunday’s televised Premier League games at the Vitality Stadium and Emirates Stadium respectively.
Marriner will oversee Jose Mourinho’s first league match as Manchester United boss when the Reds visit Bournemouth (KO 13:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
The West Midlands whistler, 45, will be assisted by Simon Beck (Bedfordshire) and Scott Ledger (south Yorkshire), with Roger East (Wiltshire) the fourth official.
And straight afterwards, Oliver will be the referee for Arsenal’s clash with Liverpool in the standout game of the opening weekend (KO 20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
The 31-year-old, from Northumberland, was also at the helm for the corresponding fixture last season – a goalless draw almost 12 months ago to the day.
The linesmen will be Stuart Burt (Northamptonshire) and Eddie Smart (west Midlands), while Craig Pawson (south Yorkshire) will be the fourth official.
There is no game for Euro 2016 Final referee Mark Clattenburg, who won’t be involved at all in the opening round of matches.
The 41-year-old handled four games in France, including the host nation’s 1-0 defeat by Portugal in the Paris showpiece on July 10.
He is said to be taking an extensive break following his exploits at the tournament, while last week it emerged he had two of his major achievements last season tattooed on his arm whilst on holiday in Spain.
Click here for a full list of appointments for the Premier League’s opening weekend