Clattenburg hits £500k jackpot with Saudi move
Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has decided to quit mid-season to accept a lucrative deal with the Saudi Arabia football federation after years of frustration and feuds with the major refereeing authorities in English football.
Clattenburg has negotiated a break with the English referees' body, Professional Game Match Officials, which allows him to leave immediately even though his departure will mean the select group is without the man regarded as their best referee, albeit a man who has divided opinion.
Clattenburg (41) had major differences with PGMO general manager Mike Riley, especially over the Ref360 assessment system which has proved so unpopular with England's leading referees.
However, it was with the English FA, and its referees' chairman David Elleray, that there was the most tension.
It is understood that Elleray did not want Clattenburg to referee the 2014 Super Cup final between Real Madrid and Sevilla in Cardiff and told UEFA so but was overruled by Pierluigi Collina, the Italian former referee who is UEFA's chief refereeing officer.
Then, last year, Elleray - who handles international referee appointments for the FA - wanted Martin Atkinson to be England's referee representative at Euro 2016.
However, Collina insisted on Clattenburg and a compromise was reached that saw both officiate at the tournament in France, where the Italian ensured that his man took charge of the final, having earlier appointed him to referee the Champions League final.
Clattenburg's decision to leave is also financially motivated, with his annual salary in Saudi Arabia estimated to be £300,000-£500,000. He would be able to earn around £200,000 currently, with a £97,000 basic package as a select group referee plus bonuses and around another £100,000 earned through UEFA games.
PGMO has always prevented its top referees from taking well-paid one-off games, whereas other European referees are permitted by their national associations effectively to freelance.
Howard Webb, who was the head of referees in Saudi Arabia before accepting an offer to move to the MLS, had a budget to appoint a top European referee to the game of the week in the Jameel League.
There are only 14 teams in the Saudi top flight and it is expected that, as well as coaching and developing referees, Clattenburg will also take charge of a game every week.
He was first approached over the job in December when he was named as the best referee in the world at the Globe Soccer awards in Dubai.
Leaving the Premier League now means that Clattenburg will forfeit his place as the leading contender to be the English referee at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
It would be difficult for him to take the place on offer from Saudi referees, even though he will be officiating in that league, with native referee Fahad Al Mirdasi already on the shortlist having taken charge of the U-20s World Cup final in New Zealand in 2015.
Clattenburg gave a brief press conference in Saudi yesterday in which he said he was "humbled" by the opportunity and had a "passion for improving referees and education".
PGMO said that he had "set standards for others to follow" and had been a "great asset" to the English game. (© Daily Telegraph, London)