Mark Clattenburg: It was a relief to leave the Premier League – more refs will go abroad

Mark Clattenburg explains why he doesn’t miss the high-profile league, as he returns to London to referee for the first time since controversial departure


It’s a relief to get away from the Premier League. The pressures inside your own country are sometimes more difficult than high-profile international games.

It can affect your family. All the social media things that are written, it affects people who know you. Where, if you make the same mistakes abroad, nobody seems to comment.

I think more of our referees will go overseas. In the Premier League, people are criticising you constantly. When you go abroad you don’t seem to get spoken about. That criticism is one of the catalysts for my decision to quit the Premier League. Is it worth doing this job? You make a right decision, you’re told it’s wrong, and you’re driving home hundreds of miles with that in your head.

Managers never come out and apologise for it, or come into the dressing room privately and say they’ve made a mistake. The drama of it is unique, but I don’t miss the day-to-day Premier League.

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How do you release the tension around refereeing big games? Drink lots of beer! I used to call my wife after a game, and she’d know by my voice if I’d had a bad game or not.

When I got home, she’d be in the bed and the fridge would be full of beer if I had a nightmare. If I’d had a good game, she’d wait up.

It’s horrible after a game if you’ve made a mistake – it would be a horrible drive home. If you had a good game, you would want to listen to the radio stations talking about the match. But, if you’d had a ‘mare, you’d turn the Bluetooth on and play some music.

The worst was when Chelsea played Manchester United, and I’d been accused of being racist by Jon Obi Mikel. I had to fly out of Heathrow and it was breaking news all over the world, having to deal with that and the aftermath while getting on the flight.

I remember boarding and the guy sitting next to me said ‘you’re the referee aren’t you? Fucking hell, you’ve made some headlines’. You realise then how huge the impact football has.

I couldn’t leave the house for the next week. To be accused of something you hadn’t done was difficult to deal with, because you get frustrated. You have to leave the investigations to run their course.

They asked us to come back and referee and I wasn’t in the right state of mind for it for a while. I thought about quitting a lot after that, but the problem you’ve got as a professional is you’ve left your other industry for nine years. I was an electrical engineer, and I couldn’t back to that because the game had changed. What could I do? I had mortgage to pay, I’d a family, I’d a house.

It becomes different when refereeing becomes your job. You have to think differently. There aren’t many alternatives.

Mark Clattenburg will referee several matches at the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup in London

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