LONDON: Mark Clattenburg, England’s leading FIFA match official, is quitting the European game to take up a role as referees’ boss in Saudi Arabia.
The 41-year-old’s move was confirmed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation which provides and trains officials for the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association.
Clattenburg, who was on the FIFA shortlist to referee at the World Cup in Russia next year, succeeds Howard Webb in Saudi Arabis; Webb is taking up a post in the United States overseeing Major League Soccer’s experiment with video assistants.
He became an assistant referee in the Northern League at 18, has reportedly grown unhappy with the level of public support officials are given by PGMOL and he has been linked with various lucrative moves abroad.
With no Premier League fixtures this weekend, Clattenburg’s final top-flight game was Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Hull on Saturday – another game with a refereeing controversy when a handball was missed before Alexis Sanchez’s opening goal.
Hull have also been fined £20,000 for failing to control their players, who surrounded Clattenburg following his decision to show Arsenal full-back Kieran Gibbs a yellow card for fouling Lazar Markovic when the winger was clear on goal.
Clattenburg has been a FIFA referee since 2006 and officiated the Olympic men’s football final at London 2012.
His career has not been without lows, though, as he served an eight-month suspension in 2008 and 2009 after PGMOL investigated his business dealings, and in 2012 Chelsea made a formal complaint that he had used inappropriate language towards Jon Obi Mikel during a game against Manchester United.
He was, however, cleared of any wrongdoing.
He was also reprimanded by PGMOL boss Mike Riley in 2014 for breaches of protocol when he drove to Newcastle to see an Ed Sheeran concert after refereeing a Crystal Palace versus West Brom game and speaking to Palace manager Neil Warnock on the phone after the game.
PGMOL, in a statement, said: “The Professional Game Match Officials Limited would like to wish Mark Clattenburg well as he prepares for his move to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.
“Since joining the PGMOL Select Group in 2004, Mark developed into one of our top officials, refereeing at the highest level and setting standards for others to follow.
“His accomplishments are numerous and last season saw Mark achieve a memorable treble, on top of another consistently excellent season in the Premier League, as he officiated three major cup finals – the FA Cup final, the UEFA Champions League final and the UEFA Euro 2016 final.
“Mark is a talented referee, he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grass roots of the game. We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark as well as further underlining what high esteem English match officials are held throughout the world game.”