Over the last few years, the cult of Clattenburg has been in full swing. Seen by many as one of the top refs in the English and European game, rumours have swirled that ‘Clatts’ might be on his way out the door. Frustrated with the English game and sick of the comparatively paltry pay, it appears that Clattenburg has just started what could become the new Bosman – referees moving leagues.
Despite the comedic value of a referee jumping ship for more money, less stress and probably more authority in the decision making process, is it really such a silly thing?
It’s easy to find people demonizing Clattenburg for his move. Using the same language about the man that is being used to regularly describe players moving to the Middle East or China for money, though, seems a little crass. For one, the earning power of a Premier League referee might blow away what you can earn in a 9-5 job, but it’s still not the money they probably should get.
After all, they spend the weekend taking massive abuse from the crowd and by teams of multi-millionaire drama queens. Given that everything they do is scrutinized to the finest detail, and the rewards for getting it right are merely to only get abuse from some of the crowd and players on the pitch, is it not worth a bit more than the fees they get?
Clattenburg has done what we all would do. His job is different to that of a footballer. A player has to be careful about moving for money alone, as they could be moving to a team, a culture or a lifestyle that they would never fit into. As a referee you don’t need to worry about playing out of position or moving to a club that isn’t right for you. Whether it’s refereeing in the English or Arabian game, you have the same job.
He also does not have the same career options. When you finish up as a referee, the spots for “coaching” in the referee circles are much smaller and thus the chances of having a strong post-refereeing career become minimized significantly.
Clattenburg just opened up the chance for himself to be a key figure in the KSA for years to come. He obviously never had the same options in England. He’s earning good money for the same job, he’s got more power and more control over his future, and he gets to live in a location that many would deem a paradise.
He isn’t moving to a lower standard of football to play in it, so questioning his ambition would seem strange at this point. We can’t see the issue with a referee moving – they don’t play for fans; they do a professional role. Players have more to consider when it comes to who they play for, and they know that the avenues post-playing are far more diverse.
It’s harder to appreciate a player moving for money – but referees have a totally different set of circumstances. Best of luck, Clatts.