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English Premier League

World’s best football referee Mark Clattenburg open to move to Chinese Super League

English Premier League match official says no offer is on the table but he likes the idea of helping develop the game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:58am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:58am

Mark Clattenburg, who refereed the biggest finals in soccer in 2016, would consider a transfer from the English Premier League to the Chinese Super League.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by Chinese clubs on high-profile talent, including Argentina striker Carlos Tevez this week, in a bid to become a soccer superpower.

“China are certainly looking to develop their football, looking at their signings and their recruitment,” Clattenburg said. “If an opportunity came along – I am contracted to the Premier League – but I have to look at my long-term strategy of my career. How long can I last as a referee? I have been in the Premier League 12 years. It’s been a wonderful 12 years.

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“There is no offer on the table but if they made an offer it would be under consideration. But at the moment I still enjoy working for the Premier League and Uefa.”

The 41-year-old Clattenburg was linked with a move to China this week after refereeing the finals of the European Championship, Champions League and FA Cup this year. Clattenburg was named referee of the year at a soccer awards ceremony earlier this week in Dubai, an accolade which allowed Clattenburg to give a rare interview.

A referee leaving the English Premier League for China would emulate players, such as Chelsea midfielder Oscar who agreed a deal last week with Shanghai SIPG.

Clattenburg hopes when his career in the Premier League eventually ends he will be able to help a country like China raise refereeing standards.

“Money has never been a driver as a referee ... It’s about the drive of doing something different, maybe helping the recruitment,” Clattenburg said. “If it didn’t happen now I will be looking in the future at that, a bit like Howard Webb has done [in Saudi Arabia] where you are helping another country develop refereeing.

“It’s important to have the right quality of referee to go with the level of football. China is going to become a huge player in years to come. If they want to be serious about their league they are going to have to have the right setup. Refereeing is a huge part of football.”