With all of the gargantuan contracts the Chinese Super League has handed out to star(ish) soccer players over the last year or so, it was only a matter of time before those on the sport’s periphery started batting their eyes eastward, hoping to secure some of those seemingly infinite riches for themselves. Enter star referee Mark Clattenburg, who has made it clear that his mind and phone lines are definitely open to any potential Chinese suitors.
In Dubai to receive an award for being named the Referee of the Year (Clattenburg refereed the Champions League and Euro finals this year), the ref was asked in an interview his thoughts on reports linking him to the Chinese league. From the Guardian:
“China are certainly looking to develop their football, looking at their signings and their recruitment,” Clattenburg said. “If an opportunity came along – I am contracted to the Premier League – but I have to look at my long-term strategy of my career. How long can I last as a referee? I have been in the Premier League 12 years. It’s been a wonderful 12 years.
“There is no offer on the table but if they made an offer it would be under consideration. But at the moment I still enjoy working for the Premier League and Uefa.”
Clattenburg doesn’t want you thinking this is a shameless cash-grab, however. His “long-term strategy” for his career isn’t one based on money. It’s on helping to grow the sport. The money would just be a happy boon:
“Money has never been a driver as a referee … it’s about the drive of doing something different, maybe helping the recruitment,” Clattenburg said.
“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.
“It’s important to have the right quality of referee to go with the level of football. China is going to become a huge player in years to come … If they want to be serious about their league they are going to have to have the right setup. Refereeing is a huge part of football.”
“A huge part” of the game, indeed. Surely deserving of a huge amount of money, too.