Mark Clattenburg, famous referee/grade-A glory boy who decorates his biceps with tattoos to commemorate big games he called, quit his job as an English Premier League official on Thursday to become the head referee of Saudia Arabia’s football league.
The 41-year-old was reportedly considering a move to the Chinese Super League, which has been shelling out big money in order to lure foreign talent. But Clattenburg told the Associated Press in December that “money has never been a driver as a referee.” He said: “It’s about the drive of doing something different, maybe helping the recruitment,” and added, presciently: “If it didn’t happen now I will be looking in the future at that, a bit like Howard Webb has done (in Saudi Arabia) where you are helping another country develop refereeing.” In fact, Clattenburg is taking over for Webb, who moved to the MLS.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the group which oversees referees, said:
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.
But Clattenburg’s scramble to the top of the referee heap hasn’t been without controversy. In 2009, he was banned for life after information about his personal debts came to light, but the ban was reduced to an eight-month suspension after he appealed. In 2014, he was suspended for driving himself to a match — which is against the rules — in order to make it to an Ed Sheeran concert on time.
He also once did this, which, ew:
And he gave this magnanimous speech to aspiring refs:
But despite being an arrogant doofus, he’s as good a referee as there is, and the Premier League will miss him. And fans will miss hating on him.