Former FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg has told Independent.ie that he was on the receiving end of death threats as he revealed that his family were also abused during his time officiating in England’s top flight. Clattenburg’s lowest point came as he was accused of racially abusing Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel in a game against Manchester United in October 2012, in an incident that he admits forced him to consider his future in the game.
Now the official who has quit the Premier League last year to take up a new role in Saudi Arabia had opened up on the vile social media abuse that flowed his way in a career that saw him take charge of the FA Cup final, Champions League final and the decisive game of Euro 2016 between Portugal and France. “I’ve had death threats, my family have been threatened and it is not nice. People say what they are going to do to you, that they know where you live,” Paddy Power ambassador Clattenburg told Independent.ie. “The odds of them carrying out these threats are low, but your children can still read it and that is not nice. When it affects your family, it is a horrible situation and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. The low point for me was clearly the Chelsea - Manchester United game in 2012 and the racism accusation that cause such a storm. After that, I wanted to quit, but I was not in a position to do that. “One day the whole truth will come out on what happened in that game and people will be surprised by that story. The incident on the day and what happened afterwards was not right and it left a lasting mark on me. It made me realise that football is not just a sport any more. There are bigger issues around; that was not a football incident. Sometimes things happen in life that make you stronger and I am probably a better referee after that incident than I was before it, but it was still a difficult situation to live through.” Clattenburg admits he was ready to walk away from refereeing for good after the racism accusations that were belatedly dropped by Mikel and Chelsea, but he suggests he was ‘trapped’ in a job he could not escape from. “At the time, I wanted to quit and the support is not there in that kind of situation, but what can you do?” he asks. “In refereeing, you are stuck in an industry you can’t get out of and that is a difficult place to be in. You cannot step away from referee once you are in it for a very good reason. I have a family, they need to be looked after. I have left my profession as an electrical engineer behind and there is nowhere to go if I walk away from refereeing. This is a unique job in many ways and not always for the right reason. If you are a player or a manager or even a journalist, you can always get a job somewhere else if something goes wrong, but you cannot do that in refereeing. Who is going to employ me in a job outside football given my profile and the like? That is why I had to take the offer to move to Saudi Arabia when it came my way, as it offered security to my family. People sometimes forget that referees are not there for a hobby or to live out the dream of being on the pitch as it is a job at the end of the day. Social media has probably not helped referees. It is not just the 90 minutes on the field any more as it is the backlash that follows if there is a controversial incident or a mistake that might have been made by the officials. That doesn’t just last for a few hours, it can go on for days and weeks and that is not easy. There are some nasty people out there and people who want to say things that they wouldn’t say to your face”. (Source: The Independent)
Clattenburg insists he quit England after getting fed-up of always being in the eye of the storm after bust-ups with players, and managers never apologising when they got it wrong. The ex-FIFA ref, now working in Saudi Arabia, said: “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. 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. 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”. Clattenburg says whenever he was involved in a flash point - once being cleared of a racist bust-up with Jon Obi Mikel - the only escape was to turn to drink. “How do you release the tension around refereeing big games?” said Clattenburg. “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? F***ing hell, you’ve made some headlines’. You realise then 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 go back to that because the game had changed. What could I do? I had a mortgage to pay, I had a family, I had a house. It becomes different when refereeing becomes your job. You have to think differently. There aren’t many alternatives”. (Source: Irish Mirror)