Mark Clattenburg has lifted the lid on the world of top-level refereeing, from ‘boring as f***’ Christmas parties to attracting the ire of Neil Warnock by leaving a stadium early to go and watch Ed Sheeran.
The former FIFA official took charge of matches in the Premier League for 13 years and was the man in the middle for the final of Euro 2016 and the 2016 Champions League final.
But it was clearly far from a glamorous existence, with his peers reluctant to buy a round at the referees’ Christmas party.
Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has lifted the lid on life as an elite official
Clattenburg right in the thick of it as Chelsea and Tottenham players square up in 2016
‘Every year we used to have one, but it was boring as f***,’ Clattenburg, who left English football for a role in Saudi Arabia in 2017, told Paddy Power’s ‘From the Horse’s Mouth’ podcast.
‘They weren’t guys I would have a drink with. I made my bunch of mates up in the north, and then I had the referees. But they wanted any bit of money, they were tight as anything!
‘They wouldn’t even go to the bar to buy a beer. You would end up going to the bar and then you would turn around and there was 10 of them behind waiting for a pint.
‘That’s how tight they were, so they weren’t guys I would like to socialise with.
‘There’s not many of them I’m still speaking to even though I’ve left three years ago and that doesn’t bother me, because I’ve got my great friends outside of refereeing in life, and in football.’
Clattenburg shows the red card to West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate during a match in 2016
The referee shares a joke with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney during a match in 2015
Sir Alex Ferguson speaks with fourth official Clattenburg ahead of the 2012 Manchester derby
One memorable episode from Clattenburg’s distinguished career came when he left The Hawthorns five minutes earlier after taking charge of a West Bromwich Albion match to get to an Ed Sheeran concert.
Unfortunately, Neil Warnock wanted to vent his anger at him and his early exit from the ground resulted in a one-match ban.
Clattenburg said: ‘It was this game at West Brom and I did everything that was normal before the match.
‘After the match, I’d left. The problem was, Warnock came looking for us half an hour afterwards and I think I’d left after 25 minutes thinking he’d not f**king bother me, but he did.
‘He wanted to have a rant and rave at me. He called me on my way back up home, up to Newcastle, on the way to the concert and he wanted to have a word with me.
‘I had to repot myself for taking a phone call from a manager so I ended up getting a one-match ban, but was it worth it for going to watch Ed Sheeran?
Neil Warnock wanted to ‘rant and rave’ at Clattenburg but the official had already left
Clattenburg had left the ground early to go and watch Ed Sheeran – and doesn’t regret doing it
‘It was and my garden the following week looked absolutely immaculate because I spent all week in it rather than refereeing in the Premier League.’
Clattenburg, 45, also revealed that Jose Mourinho still blames him for his sacking second time around at Chelsea.
‘He was hard work when he came back from Real Madrid and well, I got him the sack at Chelsea,’ he said.
‘Well, he blames me for getting him the sack at Chelsea – but I would say it was more all the results before that, too.
‘When he went to Manchester United, he was thinking the same thing – I’m going to get him the sack. So he was always anti-me.
Jose Mourinho blames Clattenburg for getting him the sack second time around at Chelsea
‘In general, managers like Sir Alex [Ferguson], at the time it was all about if they win you are the best referee in the world.
‘There was only one team that really hated me when I was in the Football League and that was Wigan.
‘Wigan didn’t win for 13 matches, so it didn’t matter what I did, they never won.
‘Crystal Palace are the same, never won a Premier League game when I refereed them and I can remember refereeing a game at Aston Villa. Aston Villa were rock bottom and, I thought, you know what, they are going to win this game.
‘Villa are going to finally break their duck against Mark Clattenburg.
‘The goalkeeper threw one in and they got beat 1-0 and I still got the blame.’
Mark Clattenburg was talking on Paddy Power’s podcast, ‘From the Horse’s Mouth’, which you can listen to at podfollow.com/horsesmouth