Mark Clattenburg has warned officials that they could be barred from officiating in the World Cup if they swap the Premier League for Saudi Arabia.
According to The Times, referees from the Premier League and Europe are being approached for potential moves to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Pro League, which has witnessed significant spending during the summer transfer window, is keen on recruiting top officials as part of its development. International referees, including those from New Zealand, Paraguay, and Argentina, have previously officiated in the league’s exceptional matches. There are discussions about offering long-term contracts to top referees.
Clattenburg, a former Premier League official who now works in Greece, served as Saudi Arabia’s director of refereeing from 2017-18. His move to Saudi came shortly after overseeing prestigious events like the FA Cup, Champions League, and Euro 2016 finals.
However, Clattenburg revealed that he had not been aware that this move would lead to his exclusion from refereeing at the World Cup and European Championships.
“My problem with the idea of having full-time referees going there from Europe is that I can’t see referees giving up the chance to referee in the Champions League, Euros or World Cup unless they are at the end of their career,’ said Clattenburg to The Times.
“I thought I would be able to still go to the World Cup taking one of the European places but FIFA and UEFA insisted I should be viewed as a Saudi referee and I did not want to take the place of anyone from there,” he revealed.
While Premier League referees can earn substantial salaries ranging from £120,000 to £300,000 at the top of their profession, it’s believed that the Saudi league offers significantly higher wages. In April, Premier League referee Michael Oliver had a unique experience of officiating in the Pro League. He reportedly earned £3,000 for taking charge of a match between Al-Hilal and Cristiano Ronaldo’s team, Al-Nassr.
Notably, Michael Oliver’s Saudi assignment included some perks. He travelled in business class to Riyadh, and his fee for this match was approximately double what he might typically earn for refereeing an English top-flight fixture.
The recruitment of top referees from prestigious leagues like the Premier League and Europe reflects the Saudi Pro League’s ambition to enhance the quality of officiating in its matches. However, the decision to make such career moves and the consequences for their participation in future World Cups and European Championships will depend on individual choices.