Referee Kevin Friend taken off Stoke-Tottenham as he supports Leicester
The Premier League has removed referee Kevin Friend from officiating Tottenham Hotspur's crucial match at Stoke on Monday... because he is a Leicester City fan.
The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd does not pick Friend for Leicester matches because he lives in the city and admits to being a supporter of the Premier League leaders, who have a seven-point lead over Spurs with five matches remaining.
Friend is normally allowed to referee matches against Leicester's rivals, but given the importance of Monday's match -- and pressure on social media -- PGMOL chief Mike Riley had second thoughts about the appointment.
Neil Swarbrick will replace Friend, who switches to Newcastle's home match against Manchester City.
"Kevin Friend, initially selected for the game, is from Leicester and has attended matches at Leicester City in a personal capacity," a statement said. "Given the context of this match, it was felt unnecessary to add extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment."
Leicester need three wins from their remaining matches against West Ham, Swansea, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea to win the Premier League title
In 2013, Friend told The Leicester Mercury: "I have got two teams, Bristol City, because I was born in Bristol, and also Leicester because I live here.
"I do go down to the King Power quite a bit. They have got a good bunch of lads at the minute and a really good manager in Nigel Pearson -- they will succeed."
Former Premier League referee Graham Poll applauded the decision and revealed it is not without precedent.
"I can only assume it is an oversight. It could so easily have been avoided, but the best thing to do now is just to change the appointment," Poll told The Daily Mail. "Why leave something to chance?
"There is a precedent, albeit in a different competition. Mike Dean, a Tranmere fan who lived on the Wirral, was named as the 2006 FA Cup Final referee before the semi-finals, but once Liverpool went through he was taken off duty.
"That is what needs to happen now as nothing should detract from the climax to such a thrilling season."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.