Premier League Career: 2004-2017
First Premier League Match: Crystal Palace 1-3 Everton (21 August 2004)
Final Premier League Match: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester City (29 April 2017)
In 2017, the Premier League bid farewell to Mark Clattenburg. The 42-year-old from County Durham accepted the opportunity to become the Head of Refereeing for the Football Federation in Saudi Arabia.
A referee since 1990, Clattenburg officiated 292 Premier League matches over a 13-year career in the English top-flight. He flashed the yellow card to players 946 times and showed nearly 50 red cards but his controlling influence on matches made him one of the regulars in some of the league’s most tempestuous and key fixtures. The peak of his career came in 2016, when he took charge of the FA Cup final, UEFA Champions League final and the European Championships final in a space of a few weeks.
He took up refereeing through the rewarding Duke of Edinburgh scheme and three years later, became an assistant referee in the Northern League. He made the National List of Football League refs in 2000 and his first match came that year as Chesterfield beat York City 4-1 in a Division Two clash. He was just 25 at this appointment, breaking several post-war records.
Clattenburg spent the next four years plying his trade in the Football League, often called in to take charge of crucial semi-finals in the play-offs. He was the man in the middle for the 2004 Third Division play-off final between Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town and was promoted to the Select Group of officials later that year.
In August 2004, Mark was given his first Premier League appointment as Everton won 3-1 away at Crystal Palace, awarding the visitors a penalty in this match which was converted by Thomas Gravesen. His first difficult moment came five months later when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a late win at Old Trafford. Pedro Mendes’ goal-bound effort from distance was dropped over the goal-line by Roy Carroll but wasn’t spotted by the linesman. Clattenburg was in a poor position, so couldn’t award the goal as he wasn’t 100% sure it had crossed the line.
He became a FIFA referee in 2006 and even took charge of a testimonial match for Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer on his retirement from playing. His allegiance towards the Magpies’ means he has never refereed a competitive match involving Newcastle United.
Clattenburg has shown the red card over the years on nearly 50 occasions. Some of his key dismissals include:
- His first red card came on his Premier League debut, with Gary Naysmith dismissed for dragging back Wayne Routledge in Everton’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in August 2004.
- Everton were on the receiving end in a Merseyside Derby in October 2007 – losing Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville to red cards in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool FC at Goodison Park. David Moyes said afterwards: “The referee has had a very bad day at the office!”
- Sent off Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata just four minutes into a clash with Arsenal in October 2010 for a professional foul. Arsenal win the match 3-0.
- Jonny Evans was dismissed in the Manchester Derby of October 2011 for hauling down Mario Balotelli in a goalscoring opportunity. Manchester City take full advantage to beat their local rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford.
- Dismissed West Bromwich Albion full-back Goran Popov for spitting during a home match with Tottenham Hotspur in February 2013.
- Awarded Liverpool FC three penalties at Old Trafford in March 2014 and sends Nemanja Vidic off in LFC’s 3-0 win over the reigning champions.
- Gave two penalties to Leicester City and sends off Manchester United youngster Tyler Blackett during an eight-goal contest between the teams in September 2014.
- Per Mertesacker saw red in January 2016 as Chelsea win 1-0 at The Emirates Stadium to complete a league double over Arsenal.
In 2008, Clattenburg was appointed as referee for the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Portsmouth but this was later given to Peter Walton after an investigation that led to him missing the majority of the 2008-2009 campaign. He was suspended during the investigation which was looking into alleged debts incurred by companies with which he was connected to. Citing a breach of contract, the referees’ governing body dismissed Clattenburg but he appealed the decision, denying any wrongdoing. The PGMOB reinstated him in February 2009 but back-dated his suspension to eight months meaning he took charge of just one Premier League match all season, the final day encounter at The Etihad Stadium between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers.
He re-established his integrity over the next four seasons, earning the 2012 League Cup final for his rewards and also, took charge of the men’s football final at the 2012 London Olympics when gold medal favourites Brazil were humbled by Mexico 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. Controversy was never that far away though for Mark.
In October 2012, Manchester United ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the domestic season, winning 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Clattenburg sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres during the match and also allowed United’s winner to stand even though Javier Hernandez was clearly in an offside position. After the game, Chelsea accused him of using racist language towards their Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel when he was booked.
The FA took him out of the firing line for a month but cleared him of any wrongdoing nine days after the fixture in west London and charged Mikel with using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour” towards Clattenburg after the match. Mikel was found guilty and received a three-match ban and a £60,000 fine.
In a statement afterwards, he said: “I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”
2016 was Mark’s big break. First, he was appointed to the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. He sent Chris Smalling off in extra-time but Louis van Gaal’s side still prevailed to win 2-1. A week later, he was in Milan to officiate the biggest game in European club football, the final of the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid played city rivals Atletico Madrid and won 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Then, he went to France as one of the English officials at the 2016 European Championships. He was given the showpiece final gig which saw hosts France shocked 1-0 by Portugal, again after an extra-time conclusion.
Never one to accept the appointments quietly, he had the logos of the UEFA Champions League and the 2016 UEFA Euros tattooed on his arm to remember the final of the two competitions that he officiated in a few months later.
In February 2017, it was confirmed that he was to leave his post as a Premier League official to educate younger referees in Saudi Arabia. Replacing another huge figure in Howard Webb, the PGMOL said in a statement: “Mark is a talented referee; he 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.
His final top-flight match in this country was a fairly uneventful Midlands Derby in April 2017 between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City which Leicester won 1-0 thanks to a Jamie Vardy goal. Even though he isn’t in the middle in England, he has still made headlines recently from infidelity allegations about his love life to admitting that he let Tottenham Hotspur self-destruct at Stamford Bridge in May 2016 on the night where their 2-2 draw handed the title to 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City.
However, he is one of the best referees we’ve seen in the Premier League and his achievements in the game can’t be ignored despite some of the controversy.