England's World Cup referee Howard Webb was removed from a celebrity website advertising his £4,000-a-night after-dinner speaking last night following accusations he was "losing his focus".
Webb was listed as a client of the website of an agency representing numerous high-profile figures from sport, politics and entertainment – but describing itself as "the one stop shop for comedy".
His fee was advertised as between £2,000 to £4,000. The official – who was criticised for his performance in Arsenal's 2-1 FA Cup victory over Liverpool on Sunday – promptly had his name and any reference to his speaking activities erased once it was made public yesterday.
It is understood the agency was asked on behalf of the referee to take his details off the site due to adverse publicity but he remains on the client list.
Earlier, Webb's former colleague Mark Halsey, who was also an after-dinner speaker while officiating Premier League games, suggested England's most high-profile referee was concentrating too much on "a lot of work outside of football".
Privately, this claim has been strongly refuted by the referees' representative body, the Professional Game Match Officials, which vets Webb's appearances and is comfortable his volume of work has not significantly increased in recent years. Indeed, much of Webb's work outside of football is encouraged and welcomed by the Premier League.
Those close to Webb insist his lectures are more serious than the frivolous tone a comedy website would suggest, which will explain why someone acting in his interests was so eager for its removal to save potential embarrassment.
In the past two months, the only paid speaking work Webb has undertaken was a seminar for head teachers. However, after Halsey's comments, Webb felt the issue sensitive enough to ensure removal of any advertising for his services.
Meanwhile, Mark Clattenburg is to officiate a Southampton fixture for the first time since being cleared of speaking inappropriately to Adam Lallana in a fixture against Everton on December 29.
He is in charge of their trip to West Ham this weekend. Southampton lodged a complaint after Clattenburg allegedly told Lallana: "You are very different since you've played for England – you never used to be like this." (© Daily Telegraph, London)