Anthony Taylor is the ex-prison officer ref who was praised by Prince William for his handling of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest… but now he’s firmly in the spotlight in Germany as he returns home to his wife after handball row

Anthony Taylor endured a busy evening on Friday as he stepped into the middle of the MHPArena to officiate Spain’s crunch Euro 2024 quarter-final clash against Germany.

In what was one of the biggest games of the tournament so far, Taylor oversaw two goliaths of European football throwing tooth and nail at each other in front of a roaring crowd. Mikel Merino’s 119th-minute winner would send the stadium into meltdown, with Spain progressing through to the semi-final in the most dramatic of circumstances after sealing a late 2-1 win. 

But while the spotlight should have perhaps been on what was an enthralling game of football, it was thrust onto several refereeing decisions throughout the match by Taylor and his officiating team, who were blasted by fans and managers from both teams. 

The Englishman, who is also a former prison officer at Manchester’s notorious Strangeways jail, began his refereeing journey in the Northern Premier League back in 2002. In fact, he refereed his first Football League matches while he was still working 40-hour weeks at the prison, which included night shifts. He is highly regarded as one of the best officials in the game by many from within the footballing world. 

Taylor also notably received praise for the split decisions he made that helped save the life of Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen, at Euro 2020, after the Manchester United defender collapsed having suffered a cardiac arrest. 

English referee Anthony Taylor (pictured) has been thrust into the spolight following a handball row at <a href=Euro 2024” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

English referee Anthony Taylor (pictured) has been thrust into the spolight following a handball row at Euro 2024

The referee was also embroiled in controversy with the Dutch national side after he ruled out Xavi Simon's goal against France

The referee was also embroiled in controversy with the Dutch national side after he ruled out Xavi Simon’s goal against France 

Taylor (pictured left in 2023) is now set to return home to his wife (right) and family and will not oversee <a href=Euro 2024 final” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Taylor (pictured left in 2023) is now set to return home to his wife (right) and family and will not oversee Euro 2024 final 

But Taylor had his work cut out on Friday’s game, giving out a whopping 15 yellow cards during what was a hotly contested bout between the two former World Cup winners. He also notably sent Dani Carvajal off for a second bookable offence in the dying embers of that match. 

The fallout from that game is continuing to unfold three days later, with Gazzetta dello Sport now claiming that the 45-year-old official is now set to return home to Cheshire to his wife and teenage daughters and will not officiate the Euro 2024 final. 

Having taken stock of those decisions, some supporters have claimed that it is the ‘same old story with English referees’ and Taylor’s performances have thrust him into the spotlight, not for the first time during his career. 

The replay petition 

The 45-year-old’s time operating at the top level of the game makes him one of the most experienced officials on the circuit. He was promoted to work as part of the Premier League‘s Select Group of referees back in 2010 and went on to join FIFA’s referee rankings three years later. 

His rise to the top of his profession is a credit to his dedication and commitment to perfecting his craft, with Taylor having overseen multiple FA Cup Finals and the 2023 Europa League final. 

Yet, one of the biggest talking points to come out of Spain’s victory against Germany is that over 32,000 fans have signed a petition on Change.org, demanding the quarter-final clash be replayed.

Citing their reasons for starting the petition, the organisers claim Taylor was wrong not to penalise Marc Cucurella for a controversial handball in the penalty area.

Taylor did not award a penalty after the ball struck the hand of Spain's Marc Cucurella (right)

Taylor did not award a penalty after the ball struck the hand of Spain’s Marc Cucurella (right)

The ball hit Cucurella's hand following a shot by Germany midfielder Jamal Musiala (left)

The ball hit Cucurella’s hand following a shot by Germany midfielder Jamal Musiala (left)

Taylor gave out 15 yellow cards during the hotly contested bout between Spain and Germany

Taylor gave out 15 yellow cards during the hotly contested bout between Spain and Germany

In what was a decisive moment in extra time of the crunch clash, Jamal Musiala had struck a shot from distance which hit the hand of Spain and Chelsea defender Cucurella. Despite an impassioned appeal from the hosts, Taylor would not award a penalty against Luis de la Fuente’s side – with Stuart Attwell – the VAR for the match – agreeing with the call.

It had come after Germany were awarded a penalty after David Raum’s cross had struck the arm of Joachim Andersen during Germany’s last 16 clash against Denmark, with the referee in that game, Michael Oliver, awarding Germany a penalty.

In its description, the petition for the replay reads: ‘Anthony Taylor whistled the match. But obviously unfair!

‘After a clear handball by Marc Cucurella in the penalty area, Germany were not awarded the penalty they clearly deserved, which could have rightly tipped the game in their favour.

‘And that’s not even the first time! Taylor has already been criticized by another referee for being biased towards Spain.

‘We therefore demand that UEFA replay the match, investigate Taylor’s breach of neutrality and punish him!’

Even the German coaching team were not happy with how the game was officiated, with Julian Nagelsmann’s assistant, Sandro Wagner, reportedly storming into Taylor’s dressing room after the match, before ‘loudly insulting the referee’ according to BILD.

Taylor has been a <a href=Premier League referee since 2010 and a FIFA-listed official since 2013″ class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Taylor has been a Premier League referee since 2010 and a FIFA-listed official since 2013

Michael Oliver awarded a penalty against Joachim Anderson during Germany's game vs Denmark

Michael Oliver awarded a penalty against Joachim Anderson during Germany’s game vs Denmark 

ESPN editor Dale Johnson said Taylor was right not to allow the goal, taking note of Andersen's handball against Germany

ESPN editor Dale Johnson said Taylor was right not to allow the goal, taking note of Andersen’s handball against Germany

Even so, ESPN editor Dale Johnson has explained why Taylor was right not to award the penalty. Writing on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday night, Johnson explained: ‘It differs from the penalty Joachim Andersen conceded against Germany. UEFA deems that arm position to be unnatural and creating a barrier.

‘Understandable fans would think the two decisions are the wrong way around… But they aren’t per intended interpretation.’

Nagelsmann, though, criticised Taylor during his post-match press conference, stating, per Mundo Deportivo: ‘He blew his whistle a bit in Spain’s favour.

‘It’s difficult to understand (why it wasn’t a penalty). Judging the matter in a footballing sense, if the ball had flown towards the old town of Stuttgart, then it would never be a penalty, but if the ball goes towards goal then it is clearly a penalty.

‘Musiala’s shot was very good, it probably would have even gone in, and the hand is stretched out, very far from his body.’

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann (pictured) claimed Taylor 'blew his whistle a bit in Spain's favour'

Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann (pictured) claimed Taylor ‘blew his whistle a bit in Spain’s favour’

Toni Kroos’ brutal challenge 

While Spain ultimately advanced to the semi-finals, many Spain fans have also questioned why Toni Kroos was not sanctioned for a crunching tackle on Pedri that forced the Barcelona star to leave the pitch with an injury. 

The 21-year-old appears to have suffered some ligament damage and is now a doubt for the rest of the tournament following the challenge.

Later in the first half, Taylor also booked Spain defender Robin Le Normand for a challenge on Ilkay Gundogan, that BBC commentator, Pat Nevin claimed was not a foul.

Both decisions attracted criticism from some online. ‘Anthony Taylor at it once again, same old story with English referees,’ one fan wrote, before adding: ‘They shouldn’t even be allowed at these tournaments, keep them in the Premier League and stay away.’

Germany's Toni Kroos (first right) fouled Spain star Pedri early in the quarter-final match in Stuttgart

Germany’s Toni Kroos (first right) fouled Spain star Pedri early in the quarter-final match in Stuttgart

The German midfielder (right) avoided a yellow card from English referee Taylor (centre)

The German midfielder (right) avoided a yellow card from English referee Taylor (centre) 

Taylor (right) later would later show a yellow card to Spanish defender Robin Le Normand (left)

Taylor (right) later would later show a yellow card to Spanish defender Robin Le Normand (left)

Fans criticised Taylor for not sanctioning Kroos following his crunching tackle on Pedri

Fans criticised Taylor for not sanctioning Kroos following his crunching tackle on Pedri

The wrath of Ronald Koeman

Taylor, who hails from Wythenshawe in Manchester, had already come under fire at Euro 2024 before Friday. During Netherlands’ group-stage clash against France, the Englishman controversially disallowed what would have been a decisive goal scored by Xavi Simons. 

The Group D match would ultimately end goalless, but Netherlands were aggrieved by the decision after Attwell, again on VAR duties, came to a decision – following a long delay-  to recommend Taylor chalk what would have been the winning strike.

It came after Denzel Dumfries had been stood next to French goalkeeper Mike Maignan right in front of the goal when Simons had struck the ball – thus prompting the officials to deem the strike offside.

The English officiating duo subsequently copped plenty of criticism after the match, with Dutch supporters and players noting that Dumfries wasn’t actually in Maignan’s eye-line and were left baffled as to how he could be offside if he wasn’t interfering in play.

Xavi Simons’ strike in the 68th minute against France was disallowed due to offside

Virgil van Dijk (pictured) expressed his anger with English referees after the Netherlands had a goal ruled out for offside

Virgil van Dijk (pictured) expressed his anger with English referees after the Netherlands had a goal ruled out for offside

Netherlands captain, Virgil Van Dijk, was also candid in his assessment of the officials, stating: ‘We scored a goal that is a fair goal. He had no chance to get into that corner. But yeah, the English referee decided to disallow it.’

Ronald Koeman did not agree with the logic behind the decision and blasted the referees for how long it took to come to the decision.

‘If it’s offside, then you don’t need to spend five minutes touching your ear,’ the former Everton and Barcelona boss fumed. ‘I don’t understand this. If you have this much doubt, you give a goal!

‘Dumfries did not hinder the goalkeeper. It wasn’t because of Dumfries that Maignan didn’t go for the ball, Maignan did not react because he simply couldn’t get to the ball anyway.

‘He would have never reached that ball. It’s a legal goal. Once again, he’s not disturbing the goalkeeper.’

Van Dijk said on Taylor's decision: 'We scored a goal that is a fair goal. He [the goalkeeper] had no chance to get into that corner'

Van Dijk said on Taylor’s decision: ‘We scored a goal that is a fair goal. He [the goalkeeper] had no chance to get into that corner’

Koeman also claimed that the goalkeeper would not have reached the ball, adding 'it's a legal goal'

Koeman also claimed that the goalkeeper would not have reached the ball, adding ‘it’s a legal goal’

But UEFA referee chief, Roberto Rosetti, has insisted that Taylor was correct to disallow the goal. ‘We think that the decision is right and we are also happy about the process,’ he said. 

‘There are always elements for improvement. In this situation, the element of improvement is the duration of this review. For sure the duration can be less, we can decrease the duration of the review (but) I want to tell you that it’s not easy.

‘In this situation the VAR checked two possible offsides, he had to check the possible impact of the attacker on the goalkeeper and a previous contact between two other players.

A busy 12 months

This isn’t the first time in the last year that Taylor has found himself at the centre of controversy. In June 2023, former Roma boss Jose Mourinho clashed with the 45-year-old official following the Europa League final.

The incident occurred in the car park of the Puskas Arena, where the pair were embroiled in an extraordinary row, where Mourinho lambasted the referee after his Roma side suffered defeat in a penalty shootout against Sevilla.

Taylor had shown eight yellow cards to members of the Roma team, two of which were given to those who were not on the pitch. Sevilla also netted their decisive penalty after Taylor ordered a re-take, despite goalkeeper Rui Patricio saving the initial spot kick. 

‘F****** disgrace man, it’s a f****** disgrace,’ Mourinho had fumed at Taylor, who was criticised for showing 13 yellow cards during the match – a record for a European final.

The Portuguese manager added during his press conference: ‘Next year we won’t be playing the Champions League and that’s a good thing because we’re not made for it,’ he said.

‘And let’s hope that Taylor, only officiates games in the Champions League and does the same bull**** there that he did tonight, and not in the Europa League.’

‘It was an intense, vibrant game with a referee who seemed Spanish,’ Mourinho said. ‘It was yellow, yellow, yellow all the time.’

Jose Mourinho raged after his side's last-gasp loss and later confronted Taylor in the car park

Jose Mourinho raged after his side’s last-gasp loss and later confronted Taylor in the car park

Taylor (left) was goaded by a mob as he travelled through the airport with his family

Anthony Taylor (centre) was goaded by a mob as he travelled through the airport with his family

Taylor (left) was goaded by a mob as he travelled through Budapest Airport with his family

Mourinho savaged Taylor's refeering and cut an animated figure at a number of decisions

Mourinho savaged Taylor’s refeering and cut an animated figure at a number of decisions

Ugly scenes erupted when Taylor attempted to travel back to the UK following the final, with the referee being confronted by over a hundred angry Roma supporters in Budapest airport.

Several items were thrown at the English referee, who walked aided by security past crowds of people, alongside his family, towards the departure lounge.

Many have since condemned the deplorable actions of fans inside the airport, including a spokesperson from the Premier League, who wrote: ‘We are shocked and appalled by the unacceptable abuse directed at Anthony Taylor and his family as they travelled back from the UEFA Europa League Final. No one should have to suffer the inexcusable behaviour they had to endure yesterday.

‘Anthony is one of our most experienced and accomplished match officials and we fully support him and his family.’

Mourinho was also banned for four matches by UEFA for directing insulting and/or abusive language towards the match official. Taylor had subsequently attended the Champions League final as a guest of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin – a huge vote of confidence for the official.

Taylor would return home to Cheshire and was spotted out walking with his wife the following day

Taylor would return home to Cheshire and was spotted out walking with his wife the following day 

Taylor took charge of the <a href=Europa League final in Hungary’s capital between Roma and Sevilla” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Taylor took charge of the Europa League final in Hungary’s capital between Roma and Sevilla 

Roma boss Jose Mourinho was condemned by Ref Support's CEO for confronting Taylor

Roma boss Jose Mourinho was condemned by Ref Support’s CEO for confronting Taylor

Having received the support from many within the game, Taylor would return to referee the following season, but was involved in a controversial incident early on in the 2023-24 campaign following a game between Liverpool and Wolves back in October.

Following that, Taylor was criticised by Wolves boss Gary O’Neil after the referee gave a penalty against his side, during their 2-2 draw against Newcastle back in October 2023.

Hwang Hee-chan had brought down Fabian Schar inside the Wolves penalty area as he attempted to clear the ball, with VAR stepping in to affirm that a penalty should be awarded – but O’Neil called Taylor’s decision ‘scandalous’.

‘(Newcastle’s) second goal was never ever a penalty, ever,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘It was a terrible decision on-field and from VAR (but) we managed to bounce back.’

The decision would ultimately see Taylor be demoted to the Championship for a week, a period which didn’t come without its controversy too.

Taylor took charge of Preston’s game against Coventry and awarded a penalty to the former, which came under some scrutiny after replays showed that the Coventry defender, Kyle McFadzean had made minimal contact with Milutin Osmajic inside the box.

Taylor was demoted to the Championship to referee Preston v Coventry City during the 2023-24 season

Taylor was demoted to the Championship to referee Preston v Coventry City during the 2023-24 season

It came after he had overseen a controversial penalty decision during Wolves' <a href=Premier League clash against Newcastle in October 2023″ class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

It came after he had overseen a controversial penalty decision during Wolves’ Premier League clash against Newcastle in October 2023 

Gary O'Neil lamented the decision to award a penalty against his side as they drew 2-2 with Newcastle

Gary O’Neil lamented the decision to award a penalty against his side as they drew 2-2 with Newcastle

Taylor receives praise for his decision-making

In 2021, Taylor was praised for how he handled Christian Eriksen’s on-field cardiac arrest by UEFA’s chief refereeing officer.

Taylor had immediately recognised the seriousness of the situation and signalled for medics to arrive on the field to treat the Denmark star within seconds after he collapsed during Denmark’s tournament opener against Finland.

The referee can be commended for his calmness and professionalism in what was a horrible situation, with the Englishman also being hailed by Prince William after the match. 

The Prince of Wales wrote on X (formerly Twitter): ‘Encouraging news about Christian Eriksen, we are all thinking about him and his family. Well done to the medical team and Anthony Taylor for their calm and swift action. W’

Taylor (left) kept his composure during the horrifying scenes in Denmark's match against Finland and his decision-making helped to save Christian Eriksen's life

Taylor (left) kept his composure during the horrifying scenes in Denmark’s match against Finland and his decision-making helped to save Christian Eriksen’s life

Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Denmark's Group B clash against Finland at <a href=Euro 2020″ class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Denmark’s Group B clash against Finland at Euro 2020 

Taylor was lauded by the Prince of Wales for his quick thinking and professionalism during the incident

Taylor was lauded by the Prince of Wales for his quick thinking and professionalism during the incident

Taylor learned to react quickly in stressful situations during his first career as a prison officer at Manchester’s Strangeways Prison (pictured)

UEFA chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti added: ‘Everyone recognised that Anthony was perfect. He managed this difficult moment in a great way. We are proud of his behaviour.’

Chris Foy, one of the coaches who has previously trained with Taylor while the Englishman was establishing himself as a Premier League referee, claimed that Taylor’s experience working as a prison officer helped him make the split-second decision that helped save Eriksen’s life that day.

Chris Foy (left) has worked with Anthony Taylor during <a href=Premier League fixtures” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Chris Foy (left) has worked with Anthony Taylor during Premier League fixtures

‘Anthony was a prison officer and I am quite sure he has been in some stressful situations before, but it is how you deal with that,’ Foy said to Mail Sport in 2021.

‘The way he dealt with it was prompt, it was quick, it was confident. And it was the right course of action so probably his prison training came in and did give him a bit of help in that situation.’

He added: ‘When he had to deal with that situation… The way he recognised it. He saw it and recognised what had gone on, thinking quickly and then he’s got to act,’ Foy told Mail Sport. 

‘Bang, bang, bang. It’s fast, it’s quick. And he’s dealt with it. He did a cracking job.’

He added: ‘For me, he was a key person during this event. I felt he was a very calm character, he was very empathetic to our emotions. I felt he was fantastic, the way he dealt with all of it and the way he communicated everything.

‘A big credit to him and his colleagues in this kind of situation. I can imagine it was tough for them as well. They were very friendly and Taylor was a fantastic guy.’

Commenting on the transferrable skills that he picked up during his time in the prison service at HMP Manchester, Taylor said to The Sun in 2017: ‘There are skills which are interchangeable between working in the prison service and refereeing.

Anthony Taylor (middle) excelled at <a href=Euro 2020 and can advise the top flight on use of VAR” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

Referee Taylor (middle) pictured heading out onto the pitch in the moments before Denmark’s match against Finland kicked off on Saturday in Euro 2020

‘It’s not about red and yellow cards, it’s about stopping things happening as much as you can. Trying to be proactive.

‘Working in a prison meant I needed a lot of communication and management qualities to deal with daily situations.

‘I specialised in control and restrain techniques, educating staff on the best ways to control violent individuals and difficult situations that arise.’

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