Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has revealed he wanted to quit the sport after he was accused of muttering a racist snipe at Chelsea midfielder Jon Obi Mikel six years ago.
The highly-respected match official was eventually cleared of all the accusations that plunged his career into doubt after an incident in the Chelsea v Manchester United game in October 2012, with the abuse flowing in Clattenburg’s direction extending to his family as he received death threats.
The referee who took charge of the 2016 FA Cup final and Champions League finals before going on to officiate at the deciding game of Euro 2016 looks back on his darkest day with real regret, as he opened up in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sport.
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“When I look back on the incidents in the Chelsea v Manchester United game in 2012 and the aftermath of that, I wanted to quit, but I was not in a position to do that,” begins Paddy Power ambassador Clattenburg, who quit the Premier League to officiate in Saudi Arabia last year.
“One day the whole truth will come out on what happened in that game and people will be surprised by that story. The incident on the day and what happened afterwards was not right and it left a lasting mark on me.
“It made me realise that football is not just a sport any more. There are bigger issues around that was not a football incident. Sometimes things happen in life that make you stronger and I am probably a better referee after that incident than I was before it, but it was still a difficult situation to live through.
“At the time, I wanted to quit and the support is not there in that kind of situation, but what can you do?In refereeing, you are stuck in an industry you can’t get out of and that is a difficult place to be in.
“You can’t step away from referee once you are in it for a very good reason. I have a family, they need to be looked after. I have left my profession as an electrical engineer behind and there is nowhere to go if I walk away from refereeing.
“This is a unique job in many ways and not always for the right reason. If you are a player or a manager or even a journalist, you can always get a job somewhere else if something goes wrong, but you can’t do that in refereeing.
“Who is going to employ me in a job outside football given my profile and the like? That is why I had to take the offer to move to Saudi Arabia when it came my way, as it offered me security to my family. People sometimes forget that referees are not there for a hobby or to live out the dream of being on the pitch as it is a job at the end of the day.”
Clattenburg went on to admit he used to drink alcohol to get away from his refereeing tensions, as he admitted he took days to get over mistakes.
“I would drink a lot of beer at times to get away from the pressures,” he added. “Decisions linger with you for a few days and my wife would often say move on and get over it, but you can’t.
“You avoid the TV, you avoid radio phone-ins. You don’t want anything to do with football if you have made a mistake, but the up side is when things have gone well and you can enjoy those moments.”
Mark Clattenburg is refereeing the CONIFA World Football Cup in London, which kicks off on May 31 and can be watched through Paddy Power’s social media channels.