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On this day in 2017 – Mark Clattenburg quits Premier League for Saudi Arabia job

Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2019 – Stamford Bridge
(Image credit: Nigel French)

Mark Clattenburg surprised English football on this day in 2017 by quitting the Premier League to become Saudi Arabia’s new head of referees.

Durham official Clattenburg had taken charge of the Euro 2016 final the previous summer, as well as Champions League and FA Cup finals during a celebrated refereeing career.

Clattenburg, then 41, succeeded fellow Englishman Howard Webb as Saudi Arabia’s head of refereeing.

Portugal v France – UEFA Euro 2016 – Final – Stade de France

English referee Mark Clattenburg signals for the stretcher as Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo lies injured at the Euro 2016 final (Joe Giddens/PA)

“This is an important move forward,” Clattenburg told the Saudi Football Federation.

“We have professional referees in the country that I am leaving, which has been a big positive.

“One thing I’d like to do is work with the refereeing team and the president to make this happen so that it will be successful for many, many years to come.”

The Premier League’s referee body, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), praised Clattenburg during an amicable parting of the ways.

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“Mark set standards for others to follow,” PGMOL said in a statement. “Mark has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grassroots of the game. We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark.”

The Saudi Professional League had established a reputation as one of west Asia’s strongest domestic leagues.

The five biggest clubs – Al Hilal, Al Shabab and Al Nassr in Riyadh and Al Ittihad and Al Ahli in Jeddah – all played at grounds with more than 60,000 fans.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United – Emirates FA Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium

Mark Clattenburg books Crystal Palace’s Damien Delaney (left) in the 2016 FA Cup final at Wembley (Mike Egerton/PA)

Clattenburg spent two years in Saudi Arabia before returning to full-time refereeing in March 2019.

He became one of five professional referees in the Chinese Super League but announced his retirement as an 11-a-side official in July 2020.

Clattenburg became head of Greece’s referees at the same time. He has also worked as a television pundit to comment on refereeing in matches.

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