Mark Clattenburg accepts part of blame for no British refs at World Cup

Mark Clattenburg has shouldered some of the blame for Britain having no referees at the World Cup for the first time in 80 years.

Clattenburg left the Premier League for Saudi Arabia in February 2017, and insists the timing of that move played a big role in British officials being overlooked for this summer’s tournament in Russia.

The English Football Association attempted to replace Clattenburg on FIFA’s long list of potential officials, but had that request rejected.

Clattenburg has committed himself to another year as Saudi Arabia’s head of refereeing, but insisted British referees cannot simply expect to be chosen for top officiating gigs.

“I’m probably partly to blame, so I’ll accept some of the blame for that,” Clattenburg told PA Sport. “It was all a timing issue. In March it was unclear whether I could go to the World Cup given I was in Saudi Arabia.

“There were a lot of discussions going on, they announced the Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups which were last summer, and these are a part of the traditional tournaments for refereeing education.

“So when it was done too late, there was actually no chance for anybody from England to come in and finish the education programme. It was too far behind. Michael Oliver is an example where he’s developing, he’s a wonderful referee and I’m sure he’ll have many other tournaments.

“But what’s important to understand is that FIFA only choose nine referees from Europe. Jonas Eriksson and Viktor Kassai are two hugely experienced referees from Europe, and neither of them are going.

“So what right has any Englishman got? I might not have gone, because I might have been out of form. So we’re not guaranteed; just because we’ve got the best league, it doesn’t mean we deserve to have the best referee.”

A host of Premier League managers have claimed it shows a perceived drop in the standard of top-flight officiating.

Clattenburg believes Premier League referee bosses should bolster their roster of full-time officials from 18 to 24, to ease the pressure on the division’s top talents.

“When I first got into the Premier League in 2004, there were 24 referees,” Clattenburg said. “A lot of the top games were able to be shared out. Now the top games are being refereed by the same guys.

“And you can guarantee that if you referee 10 or 15 top matches in a season, you’re going to make a mistake, because that’s just human life.

“Are the standards dropping? Possibly not. Is the group getting older? 100 percent. They are getting too old and they need to bring younger guys in.”