One of the talking points amongst referees in the last couple of weeks has been the suspension of Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg, who with the retirement of Howard Webb in now considered England’s Number One referee. Whereas Webb refereed the World Cup final, Clattenburg refereed the Olympic final 2012 which is seen as the second highest world honour for a referee. He has been called a rare ‘natural’ referee for his ability to read the game better than most. When he became a Football League referee at the age of twenty five he was the youngest at that time ever to reach that level.
For those who are not aware why he was suspended, the first thing to say is that it was nothing to do with his refereeing. He broke the Premier League rules about travelling to and from the match and waiting after the game to allow the club managers to speak to him if they so wished. Many people are probably not conversant with the rules by which Premier League referees must abide. First they must meet their assistants away from the ground, usually at a hotel and then they will travel together to the match, arriving at least three hours before kick off. They must give the crowds time to disperse after the end of the game after which they travel together back to their starting hotel. Managers are not permitted to approach the referee until at least half an hour after the game has finished, so they must at least wait to give them the opportunity of asking any questions. This is so everyone has time to calm down as at the end of the match when feelings can sometime be volatile. Referees are also not permitted to talk to managers alone but only with the assistants present. This is to prevent any escalation with one person’s word against another. All these rules are in place to safeguard the security and integrity of the referee and his assistants.
So why did Mark Clattenburg not follow the rules? It seems that his wife had bought tickets for them to attend a special concert by singer /songwriter Ed Sheeran at the Metro Radio Arena in his home town of Newcastle. The only way he could get to the concert on time from West Bromwich, was to travel in his own car and leave immediately after the match had finished. He conducted his post match interview with manager Crystal Palace manager, Neil Warnock, by phone from his car. I have met and talked to Mark Clattenburg and found him very friendly and chatty, which is not unusual in a Geordie nor is wanting to enjoy life. We have not heard what Mrs Clattenburg thought of her husband’s suspension but I can imagine her views. Many referee’s wives feel that refereeing greatly intrudes on family life. Ask my wife.
Of course at local level, referees’ commitment can be little more than turn up in good time for the match, with the ability to leave as soon as the game is finished. However, those who wish to officiate at higher levels, have to understand that much more is expected of them. Even at levels below the Premier League, referees have constant monitored training and have to have a commitment of being freely available. Last season I wrote about Andre Mariner’s total of seventy games in a season, many of which were overseas and probably Clattenburg’s is much the same. However at this level they are full-time professionals, and although minuscule compared with players, they are reasonably well rewarded. His suspension would have cost him a match fee, several hundreds of pounds, so I hope that he and his wife enjoyed Ed Sheeran.