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Clattenburg leaves Premier League for Saudi Arabia

Referee Mark Clattenburg reacts during the English championship football match between Chelsea and Manchester City on January 31, 2015 at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, England.****NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY----NO AGENTS----NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****
(Icon Sportswire)

Mark Clattenburg announced on Thursday that he is leaving the Premier League to become the head of referees in Saudi Arabia. Clattenburg is regarded as one of England’s best referees, and officiated the Champions League final last season, along with the Euro 2016 final this summer between France and Portugal.

Although the 41-year-old Consett native is held in good regards by some, a lot of fans of the Premier League is happy to see him go. Time and time again it seems like Clattenburg is more interested in being the center of attention rather than calling the game correctly. He’s made numerous controversial calls or non-calls throughout his career, along with allegations of abusive language towards players.

It didn’t take long after the announcement on Thursday before people were taking to Twitter to sound off on Clattenburg leaving to take up a very lucrative position, reports are that he will make £500,000 per year, with the Saudi Arabian Football Association.

With the vast amount of money reportedly being handed to Clattenburg for making the switch, you can’t blame him for jumping ship. Just like the players, referees have a limited window where they can make money, and if the reports are correct about the amounts of money he’ll be making in the Middle East, it will set him up for the rest of his life. He replaces another former Premier League referee in Howard Webb as the head of referees for the Saudi FA. Clattenburg will educate referees in the country, along with officiating games. He held a press conference on Thursday and stated his excitement for the new job.

“My name is Mark Clattenburg,” he told Saudi journalists. “I’m from a city called Newcastle. Anybody who knows England well, knows we have the best team in the country. I was recently voted the best referee in the world [at Dubai’s Globe Soccer Awards in December], therefore I bring a wealth of knowledge and a passion for improving refereeing and education here in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m very humbled by this exciting opportunity to support and educate referees, to use my expertise in refereeing some matches and bring referees from other countries around the world to improve the standard here.”

For the English FA, it’s a good opportunity to try to usher in some new referees into the top flight of English football. Having Clattenburg leave in the middle of the season isn’t ideal, but at the same time, it might spare the supporters from having an emotional outbreak or two as Clattenburg won’t be there to put himself front in center when it’s time for a big match. Refereeing is a thankless job, whether it be a local game for kids or the Champions League final. But Clattenburg’s affinity for being the focal point in a match has driven me crazy on several occasions, and I can honestly say I will not miss him one bit.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) issued a statement about Clattenburg’s departure from England.

“The Professional Game Match Officials would like to wish Mark Clattenburg well as he prepares for his move to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.”

Since joining the PGMO 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 grassroots 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.”

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