Premier League Officials Tempted by Lucrative Saudi Offers
Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg sounds the alarm, cautioning that referees could miss out on prestigious tournaments if they accept offers from the well-funded Saudi Pro League.
Referees from the Premier League and Europe are reportedly being approached for potential moves to Saudi Arabia, which is aiming to elevate its league's status following a summer of extravagant spending.
The Saudi Pro League has even brought in international referees for special matches, with officials from New Zealand, Paraguay, and Argentina taking charge.
Rumors are circulating that the league might make long-term offers to top officials, enticing them with substantial salaries.
Mark Clattenburg, who served as Saudi Arabia's director of refereeing from 2017-18 after quitting his role as a Premier League official, offers a cautionary tale. Just a year earlier, he had officiated in the FA Cup, Champions League, and Euro 2016 finals.
Clattenburg reveals he was unaware that his move would prevent him from refereeing at the World Cup or European Championships. He warns that referees must consider this consequence before accepting big-money offers from Saudi Arabia.
He observes, "My problem with the idea of having full-time referees going there from Europe is that I can’t see referees giving up the chance to referee in the Champions League, Euros or World Cup unless they are at the end of their career."
The temptation arises as the Saudi Pro League is reportedly offering significantly higher wages compared to the Premier League.
To put it in perspective, while a Premier League referee can earn between £120,000 and £300,000 at the top of their game, the Saudi league is rumored to offer a substantial increase in wages.
For instance, Premier League referee Michael Oliver earned £3,000 for officiating a match in Saudi Arabia, nearly double what he might earn for an English top-flight fixture. This endeavor marked a significant step for Oliver, as he officiated a domestic match outside of England for the first time.
In the background, the Saudi Pro League has made waves with high-profile signings, including Neymar, Karim Benzema, Jordan Henderson, and Ruben Neves, during the latest transfer window. International coaches like Nuno Espirito Santo and Steven Gerrard have also been lured to the league.
It's a situation that's turning heads and raising questions, but the allure of financial gain from Saudi Arabia may not be enough to entice referees away from the major international tournaments.