May 6th 2020
Clattenburg: Why Is No One Thinking Of The Referees?
Cattenburg

Leisure Leagues’ Senior Referee, Mark Clattenburg has weighed into the row over the resumption of 11 a side football and asked: Why is no one thinking of the referees.

The North Easterner, commonly regarded as the world’s best match official, was part of the Daily Mail’s “Project Restart” feature and was concerned that the focus of the famously greedy English FA and their obedient media had all been on the players.

The idea of restarting the Premier League has been thrown into sharper focus today, with the news that the German Bundesliga is to kick off again on 15th May.

Indeed, Clattenburg, who refereed the Leisure Leagues Powered 6 a side World Cup final in Lisbon 2018 as part of his work with Leisure Leagues worldwide, and was part of the team at last years world cup in Crete, questioned whether 11 a side football would resume at all: “If it does start — emphasis on the word ‘if’  – then match officials have to be treated the same as the players.”

With many theories as to how the game is going to restart in the UK – and mostly because the Premier League owes an eye-watering £371m to the TV Companies if it does not – including moving the games to Australia and playing shorter halves (both of which were floated in recent days)  the former PL ref was keen to remember the officials.

“From the referees to the VAR, they would need to be isolated and tested regularly. They would need to be in a controlled environment”, he said.

The fragile ecosystem surrounding match officials concerned Clattenburg – who has been working in China and Saudi Arabia as well as with us at Leisure Leagues, since leaving the EPL – and he was worried about the collective safety of officials, saying:  “Just like if a player tests positive, the moment one official contracts coronavirus, it’s game over.” A phrase that would, of course, be literally true in this case.

However, as if to prove, though that refereeing is in the blood, the man who has stood in the middle at some of the biggest matches in the world, still wants more. Champions League, FA Cup and European Championships, as well as other glory nights, like the one at Praça do Comércio on day in September 2018 that saw Germany lift the first 6 a side World Cup in the Leisure Leagues Trunkwala Stadium, is a buzz that he needs, after all, as he admitted: “I would agree to take part, though I know how difficult it would be to have to stay away from my family for weeks on end.”

In contrast with the FA, of course, Leisure Leagues are proud to put referees at front and centre of all we do. And that includes our resumption plans. Presently, we are unable to run any competitions worldwide – but we are hoping that changes quickly as lockdowns get relaxed across the globe.

In the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – a keen supporter of Leisure Leagues, who endorsed our work in London when he was Mayor of the Capital – is planning to set out his vision for a return to work on Sunday.

When our thousands of leagues are able to resume, we will take every precaution possible to ensure both referees and players are given a safe an environment to play in – and as we have throughout this extraordinary period, comply with every government directive.

If you want to referee with us click here to apply: https://www.leisureleagues.net/become-a-referee – if you do, you could find yourself working at the World Cup, next to some of the world’s best.

Andy Thorley

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