Clattenburg’s exit is a warning to the Premier League but will they listen?

Daniel Blazer
Daniel Blazer
Daniel Blazer
Managing Editor

Mark Clattenburg is Sheikhing himself off and heading to Saudi Arabia, which already promises to be a hilarious few chapters in his highly anticipated, must have gift for Christmas 2032, autobiography. 

You always got the feeling with Clattenburg that everything he did during his time as a Premier League referee, was a contrived act to include in the inevitable book release. A man who no doubt mistook the fans cheering for a goal, as some form of hero worship for the way he blew the whistle.

Therefore, it was fitting that ‘Clatts” – a nickname that we are betting he has on a mug at home – final game under the governance of the English Football Association and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) involved an Alexis Sanchez goal via a handball; and a penalty award in Arsenal’s favour for the same offence. Controversy.

Clattenburg is no different to any of the referees, nowadays. It’s just that the English culture is one that doesn’t like to see people doing well – the higher you rise, the more people want you to fail and in a footballing world that is devoid of reasoning and morals, referees are the easy targets. Sure, the tongue-wagging and no-look yellow cards exacerbated the ‘issues’ with Clattenburg, however, part of me suspects it’s actually quite difficult not to become quite arrogant as a Premier League referee – or at least to be self-important. Or more to the point, being able to do the job without possessing those character traits.

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The average salary for a Premier League referee is £70,000-a-year. An amount not to be sniffed at, of course. However, when you’re surrounded by people earning more than you – for example, Newcastle United’s Jonjo Shelvey is earning £80,000-a-week in the Championship – it’s quite easy to harbour resentment.

Without doubt, the job comes with perks – perks that would probably see you end up round a table drinking pints of white wine – and earning £70,000 for a job with little to no accountability sounds like a dream scenario for a lot of us.

But imagine when you get into work, having made a decision that’s proved somewhat controversial to the business, and everyone is instantly on your back; people who don’t have the experience to comment, people who don’t fully understand the rules to comment, people who you’ve never met calling you (quite frankly) hilarious insults based around your name resembling a battenberg cake.

The only thing is, you’d be able to retaliate, you’d be able to explain your thought process, your reasoning for making such a decision. Referees are handcuffed, gagged and thrown into the back of a FA-logo emblazoned limousine until the next match day. And Clatts, quite fairly, had, had enough.

There’s long been a debate for having referees come out post-match to talk to the cameras, and explain a few moments in the game. And whether that’s the right idea, remains up for debate. However, this mentality of the FA/PGMOL bigwigs that referees should be seen and not heard, cost them Howard Webb in 2015 and now it’s lost them Clattenburg, who, irrelevant of your opinions, is deemed the best referee in the world.

The English FA, like so many clubs in the Premier League, are full to the rafters of non-footballing people. But if they wanted to start a bank or a sex shop empire, they couldn’t be surrounded by better people.

Instead, Saudi Arabia have gained a new head of refereeing. As another league, another country and another continent outside of the Premier League, outside of England and outside of Europe makes concerted efforts to grow and develop their country’s game in a way that makes short-term and long-term sense.

There’s a lot of irony in the government handing the English FA a vote of no confidence. But if that mob of morally-warped plebs can see it, why can’t English football when looking in the mirror?

Not fit for purpose. And how long is it until it’s more than just the referees and back-up Premier League players leave in their masses?

Mark Clattenburg won’t be getting another Premier League ‘cap’, just like this lot shouldn’t be getting a Three Lions one!

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