Did Mark Clattenburg Really Get Suspended for Concert?
Mark Clattenburg…God bless him.
He’s just so easy to pick on, isn’t he?
And while I’m not about to say that the drama that seems to follow him about isn’t all his fault, I do think it’s an easy narrative for the media, whether it’s true or not.
Take the infamous “Sheeran Gate.”
Last week, the story broke pretty much everywhere that Clattenburg had been dropped from this weekend’s Premier League fixtures because he attended an Ed Sheeran concert.
(Actually, he would have been suspended for two breaches of protocol – traveling without his assistants and speaking one on one to a team’s manager – not for attending a concert.)
The FA never actually confirmed this, stating instead that it was an “internal matter”, but that didn’t stop fans and the media pouncing on the story gleefully.
Even I picked up on it, wondering out loud if we were witnessing one of Clatts’ famous implosions.
And then I almost immediately started to doubt.
You see, just one day after the story broke all over Twitter, Clattenburg was the center referee for the Capital One Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton. That alone would be a bit odd for a “suspended” referee (since they would have had enough time to replace him after the concert on Saturday).
But I also happened to know that Clattenburg was short-listed for Champions League duty this week. And, indeed, he was just announced as Tuesday’s referee for Malmo v. Atletico Madrid in Malmo, Sweden.
Let me explain how it works:
- Champions League referees are publicly announced only two days before the match, typically while they’re physically en route to the match country. That means Clattenburg is traveling to Sweden today (Sunday).
- FA rules state that referees must have at least two days rest between matches. With a Wednesday match, the first day Clattenburg would have been eligible to referee would be Saturday, and then he would have needed to travel the next day.
At 39, Clattenburg is still massively fit, but having him referee on Wednesday, referee again on Saturday, travel on Sunday and then be fully fit on Tuesday for a major international appointment might be a bit much. And if they were holding him for Champions League (he and they would have known ahead of time), they wouldn’t be able to address it because of UEFA’s secrecy rules around appointments.
It’s also true that with Howard Webb’s retirement and Lee Probert’s surprise absence, there are fewer top-level referees in the Premier League, and anytime Clattenburg isn’t refereeing, his absence is quite noticeable.
I’m just not convinced that this wasn’t a bit of a tempest in a teacup.
Am I saying that there were no breaches of protocol and he was not suspended? No. I have no inside information on that.
I am saying that, concert or no, Clattenburg probably would not have refereed Saturday anyway.
And a Cup match and a Champions League appointment is a pretty good week for a “suspended” referee…