Friend de-united: Leicester fan ref taken off Spurs match

Official Kevin Friend, although a Bristol City fan, lives in Leicester and has attended games at the King Power Stadium.

Friend de-united: Leicester fan ref taken off Spurs match
Peter Cziborra REUTERS

The Premier League have replaced self-confessed Leicester City fan Kevin Friend with referee Neil Swarbrick for Tottenham Hotspurs' clash with Stoke City, following an outcry on social media.

Spurs are second in the table, seven points behind leaders Leicester City ahead of the North London club's visit to Stoke on Monday.

Leicester will seal their maiden top-flight title if they win three of their next five games, while Spurs are chasing a first league title since 1961.

The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) do not pick Friend, who lives in Leicester, to oversee Foxes' games, but do not usually consider factors such as a referee officiating a game that could have implications for the club he supports.

"Kevin Friend, initially selected for the game, is from Leicester and has attended matches at Leicester City in a personal capacity," a statement to the Daily Mail said. "Given the context of this match, it was felt unnecessary to add extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment."

Friend said in an interview in 2013 that although he was born in Bristol and supports Bristol City, he has attended Leicester games as a fan as he lives in the city.

The Premier League has come under fire from former referee Mark Halsey for appointing Newcastle-supporting official Michael Oliver to the match between relegation rivals Norwich and Crystal Palace, during which The Canaries had a decent penalty shout turned down by the referee.