Mark Clattenburg: The movie star referee turned PGMOL agitator… through Gladiators

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By Calvin S. Nelson

That is an up to date model of an article first printed on March 8.

It’s two and a half years since Mark Clattenburg had his autobiography, Whistle Blower, to plug. No prisoners had been taken within the e book’s content material or the promotional work forward of its launch.

Graham Ballot, Martin Atkinson and David Elleray had been all among the many former colleagues Clattenburg swung for in caustic value determinations designed to settle outdated scores. And as for Mike Riley, his outdated boss at Skilled Recreation Match Officers Restricted (PGMOL), the physique liable for overseeing referees? “A boring f**ker,” was the succinct description.

Much less spiteful had been the phrases chosen for Howard Webb, a person he had recognized for over twenty years, however Clattenburg nonetheless made it clear this was a fractured relationship he had little want to mend.

“When Howard doesn’t want you, he doesn’t converse,” Clattenburg advised The Athletic in 2021, raking up an evening at Euro 2012 when Webb attended a post-match celebration with out telling his fellow Englishman. “He’s very distinctive on this. Everybody sees Howard as a pleasant man and he’s. I might by no means actually criticise him as an individual, he’s simply somebody I gained’t interact with sooner or later as a result of I don’t want Howard Webb, the identical as he doesn’t want me.”

It’s a quote that has not aged effectively.

A return to the Premier League as Nottingham Forest’s refereeing analyst meant Clattenburg wanted the ear of Webb, who changed Riley as the top of PGMOL in December 2022. It’s amongst Clattenburg’s duties to liaise with Webb, to be the conduit for a membership who’ve felt aggrieved at selections all season.

Ever since Clattenburg’s appointment two months in the past, he and Webb have been in common contact: the pair sat collectively at Forest’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Manchester United on February 28 in seats allotted by the house membership.

Howard Webb and Mark Clattenburg watch Nottingham Forest towards Manchester United (Mike Egerton/PA Photographs through Getty Photographs)

However the relationship is already being severely examined.

On Sunday, after a controversial 2-0 defeat at Everton through which they had been denied three potential penalties, Forest took their refereeing complaints to a brand new degree after they alleged, in a put up on X, that they’d warned PGMOL to not appoint Stuart Attwell to VAR duties as a result of he was a Luton fan.


The Athletic reported that Clattenburg did have a dialog with Webb on Friday, 48 hours earlier than the sport, however had not requested for him to be faraway from VAR duties at Goodison Park.

In his column for MailOnline printed on Sunday night, nonetheless, Clattenburg did savage his former employers, saying they need to have made “smarter appointments” and decrying Attwell and on-field referee Anthony Taylor for making a “hat-trick of howlers”.

That, nonetheless, was not the primary time that Clattenburg has turned assault canine since his return to English soccer.

A controversial ending to Liverpool’s 1-0 win on the Metropolis Floor on March 2, the place referee Paul Tierney incorrectly awarded the visiting aspect an uncontested drop ball, noticed Clattenburg put up for media duties by Nottingham Forest.

“I haven’t spoken to the referee, I’ll depart that to the membership,” he mentioned. But it had not been for the need of making an attempt. “I went to enter the referee’s dressing room (after the sport) however he wouldn’t permit it.”

PGMOL didn’t dispute that. Guidelines are in place that stipulate solely managers and choose teaching employees, listed on the official staff sheets, can method officers after a sport and, even then, it’s as much as the referee who enters their dressing room.

Clattenburg was denied an viewers with Tierney and had been anticipating occasions to play out in a different way. Webb had raised no objection to Clattenburg seeing referees post-match in a gathering the lads held shortly after his arrival at Forest. It isn’t uncommon for an analyst to accompany a supervisor into such a gathering and current video proof however, importantly, so long as he’s an accredited determine listed on the staff sheet.

It grew to become the sideshow that made extra headlines than Darwin Nunez’s 99th-minute winner. Forest had been on the tip of one other refereeing mistake, one which gave Liverpool the prospect to assault on the different finish (albeit virtually two minutes later), and it was Clattenburg’s job to inform the world about it.

Forest say they appointed Clattenburg to attempt to create a optimistic relationship with PGMOL, the physique they’ve addressed three letters of grievance to already this season. Clattenburg is there to create direct hyperlinks of discourse, they declare.

But PGMOL keep that each one golf equipment have already got that choice open to them. Webb has made a degree of being accessible to all Premier League managers and captains since taking management of the organisation 15 months in the past, fielding calls and explaining the nice and unhealthy selections his referees have reached. They won’t like what he has to say, however accountability is the broad goal.

“Golf equipment are conscious that Howard Webb and his colleagues are open to calls at any level,” mentioned Tony Scholes, the Premier League’s chief soccer officer, in February.

The query now could be whether or not Clattenburg is the appropriate man to attempt to facilitate higher relations.

Clattenburg, in his personal phrases, began his working life as a “daft electrician from Newcastle”.

Lengthy earlier than he was made the Premier League’s youngest referee aged 29, he had run the strains as an assistant within the Northern League earlier than the identical grassroots degree offered a platform for him to take centre stage. Clattenburg, with a reputation not simple to overlook, earned a repute as one of many brightest younger officers climbing the ladder. At 25, he had reached the EFL, 4 years earlier than he was plucked out by Keith Hackett to succeed in the best degree.

Clattenburg’s capacity as an elite referee was not often in query. Together with Webb, who beat him to the Premier League by 12 months, Clattenburg was pretty much as good because it received in English soccer.

“He was an excellent referee,” former Premier League official Mark Halsey tells The Athletic. “He was a pure, not manufactured. His communication expertise had been second to none.

“Mark was distinctive, like Howard was. And he was a perfectionist. We labored collectively and roomed collectively many occasions. He’d analyse each sport and take a look at what he may and may’ve carried out in a different way. He’d beat himself up if he received a call flawed.”

However a divisive determine? “He didn’t undergo fools,” provides Halsey. “Mark was Mark. I wouldn’t query his character. He was as sincere because the day is lengthy. He would inform you because it was and a few individuals didn’t like that. It’s how I might need individuals to be. He would by no means go behind somebody’s again like some did after we had been refereeing.”

UEFA recognition adopted Clattenburg’s spectacular stand up the Premier League ranks, culminating at his high-water mark as an official in 2016 when he oversaw each the Champions League ultimate and the ultimate of Euro 2016.

Mark Clattenburg within the 2016 Champions League ultimate – a profession spotlight (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP through Getty Photographs)

That Clattenburg has tattoos to mark each showpiece events, although, helps paint an image of the image-conscious determine that grew to become so divisive throughout his time within the Premier League.

Clattenburg was extra like a footballer than a referee. He made headlines for proudly owning a Porsche Boxster that was vandalised exterior his dwelling in Newcastle and a black BMW X5 that carried the personalised quantity plate C19TTS (Clatts).

Ballot would report Clattenburg to PGMOL bosses after turning up for one sport carrying a person bag. A separate incident in 2014, when Clattenburg used his personal transport to go straight from West Bromwich Albion’s dwelling sport towards Crystal Palace to an Ed Sheeran live performance in Newcastle, introduced a reprimand as all Premier League officers are made to journey to and from video games collectively.

Then there have been the hair-loss adverts that Clattenburg continues to advertise. One video, posted on his Instagram account earlier than Christmas, concluded with him spraying a product from a spread positioned in entrance of the digital camera. “Hair loss is a fear and make no excuses, I do what I can to maintain it,” he says.

It has grown onerous to know the way severely to take Clattenburg since his exit from the Premier League in 2017. Within the hours that adopted Forest’s galling loss to Liverpool, the place he was explaining the membership’s grievances to media retailers within the blended zone, he is also discovered reprimanding Viper for pinning down a contestant on the BBC present Gladiators.

“This can be a formal warning,” mentioned Clattenburg, who serves because the referee on the programme, which was revived earlier this 12 months. “I advised you within the locker room, no holding.” The pivot between household leisure and the Premier League is an ungainly one.

Mark Clattenburg in his new function on BBC’s Gladiators (BBC)

As is the connection between Clattenburg and Webb. It started within the late Nineties after they met throughout health testing at Lilleshall earlier than, in accordance with Webb, turning into “fairly pleasant” as they climbed the refereeing ladder.

Webb was there to toast his colleague’s success, too. Clattenburg’s first Premier League sport, a 3-1 win for Everton away to Crystal Palace in 2004, was adopted by a flight again to Newcastle, the place he was joined for “an evening on the lash” with Webb. In his personal autobiography, The Man within the Center, Webb says Clattenburg thanked his colleague for “getting him by means of (that first sport) unscathed”.

The falling out at Euro 2012, the place Clattenburg was a part of Webb’s assist staff in Poland and Ukraine, has clearly rankled, however a name from one to the opposite in 2017 was massively vital. Webb’s exit from the top of refereeing in Saudi Arabia had created a emptiness and Clattenburg, more and more disillusioned with PGMOL, was inspired by his former colleague to take up the chance. Clattenburg’s wage can be £525,000 a 12 months tax-free, an enormous climb on his fundamental annual Premier League wage of £100,000.

It marked the beginning of a well-paid tour of the world. Eighteen months in Saudi Arabia had been adopted by spells overseeing refereeing in China, Egypt and Greece, the place he grew to become personally recognized to Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos proprietor Evangelos Marinakis in an unforgiving and hostile surroundings for referees. Marinakis has beforehand accused Greek referees of being “rigged”, whereas Olympiacos vice-president, Kostas Karapapas, threw a black mini-skirt at Takis Baltakos, president of the Greek soccer federation, final season.

Clattenburg’s return to England with Forest — the primary appointment of its sort in English soccer — raised eyebrows all through English soccer.

Many Premier League golf equipment had been sceptical of the worth he would deliver, as a substitute echoing the emotions expressed by Gary O’Neil, whose Wolverhampton Wanderers aspect have suffered from a lot of high-profile errors this season.

“I’m tremendous with our relationship with the PGMOL,” he mentioned. “They’re all the time very clear and sincere with me. They’re all the time open to speaking after video games. So no, I don’t really feel the necessity for it (a Clattenburg equal) right here.”

The referees themselves are mentioned to be nonplussed but relaxed by Clattenburg’s appointment. They know they are going to be topic to considered one of Clattenburg’s pre-match stories earlier than they take cost of a Forest match.

Webb has but to publicly touch upon Clattenburg’s return, however loads of others have.

“I’m upset with Nottingham Forest,” mentioned Gary Neville. “It’s as if, ‘Have a look at all of this, woe is me’. I get it, some groups really feel as if they’ve been onerous carried out to, some groups really feel they’ve had unhealthy selections towards them, however to make use of an ex-referee to inform you why you’re having selections towards you. For me, I believe it’s a step too far.”

Neville went additional himself on Sunday, saying that Clattenburg ought to stop his function at Forest within the wake of their allegations on X.

“Mark Clattenberg should resign,” mentioned Neville. “If he noticed these phrases exit (questioning) the integrity of a referee and claims somebody is a cheat for supporting one other membership, then he’s supporting what’s being mentioned. He would lose all credibility with referees within the sport. He ought to stand down and distance himself from that assertion.”

Evangelos Marinakis exhibits his anger on the finish of Forest’s defeat to Liverpool (Jon Hobley | MI Information/NurPhoto through Getty Photographs)

However whereas Clattenburg’s work with Forest is taken into account uncommon, and even ill-advised, in England, in Europe such an association is deemed way more commonplace.

Former Serie A referee Gianpaolo Calvarese was employed by Jose Mourinho, not somebody historically sympathetic to officialdom, when in control of Roma, whereas Carlos Megia Davila has been on Actual Madrid’s payroll since 2009.

Additionally it is a standard follow in rugby union, the place head coaches recruit former officers to backroom groups. Steve Lander, previously a global referee, was an advisor to England after they gained the World Cup in 2003.

“Why can’t Mark have a task at Nottingham Forest?,” asks Halsey, an ally of Clattenburg’s. “He’s been out of the Premier League for a lot of years. Why can’t he be that liaison between a membership and PGMOL, stopping the managers and homeowners from stepping into bother?

“It may well solely assist relationships. Forest have taken the initiative and employed a former referee as a marketing consultant. Mark is right to do this.”

Both manner, simply as when he was refereeing himself, Clattenburg has discovered himself within the eye of a storm within the Premier League. With Forest’s relegation battle solely prone to grow to be extra fraught within the weeks forward, issues are unlikely to calm down.

(High picture: Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto through Getty Photographs)

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