Mark Clattenburg Abruptly Quits The Premier League, Takes A Job In Saudi Arabia

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Mark Clattenburg Abruptly Quits The Premier League, Takes A Job In Saudi Arabia

Do you ever come across a news story that shouldn’t surprise you that does anyway?

Earlier today, renowned Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg announced he was taking over as referee director of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. The announcement means that Clattenburg’s position with the Premier League is terminated, and is likely effective immediately. That means that Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Hull, for which Clattenburg drew some measure of criticism, may well have been his last Premier League game.

The County Durham native and longtime Newcastle United supporter takes over for another famous English official, Howard Webb, who left the Saudi Arabia job a couple weeks ago to take a new position as PRO’s head of video replay for Major League Soccer. Clattenburg, widely regarded as one of the best in the game, signed a one-year rolling contract with the SAFF and will officiate some league matches in addition to his standard duties.

In a press conference earlier today, Clattenburg said he sees his role as that of an “educator” and that professionalizing the game in Saudi Arabia is his main priority.

”This is an important move forward. We have professional referees in the country that I am leaving, which has been a big positive. One thing I’d like to do is work with the refereeing team and the president to make this happen so that it will be successful for many, many years to come.”

To the extent that it’s possible for football referees to develop such a reputation, Clattenburg has come to be seen as something of a “bad boy” in his profession. He had spent much of the 2008-09 season serving a suspension for shady business dealings, a charge he successfully overturned on appeal. In 2012 Chelsea filed a complaint over inappropriate comments Clattenburg made to Jon Obi Mikel. In 2014 he was temporarily suspended after talking to then-Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock on the phone (a significant breach of protocol) and then ducking out of a match early to drive to an Ed Sheeran concert. No, really. And last year Clattenburg made headlines for getting a pair of tattoos commemorating his assignment to the Champions League Final and Euro 2016 Final.

Nevertheless, PGMOL (the governing body for Premier League referees) were unreserved in their praise for Clattenburg.

”Mark set standards for others to follow. Mark has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grassroots of the game. We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark, and it further underlines the high esteem for English match officials throughout the world game.”