So for my sins, I'm now based in Saudi Arabia. It's actually okay, mainly cos the job's interesting and I get to travel quite extensively, plus I'm a member of a Business Group designed to promote UK interests.

About once a month, they have presenters in to talk about interesting stuff (as long as they're not accountants) and occasionally they have a speaker at a social event.

Last night it was... Mark Clattenburg.

Many of you will recall that game in October 2007. Hibbert and Neville (rightly in his case) sent off as we succumbed to a 1-2 home defeat in a match that saw it's fair share of controversial decisions. Moyes slated the referee's performance, was immediately put on an FA charge, and then the whole thing was quietly dropped.

Being in my 5th year here, most of the group know my Everton credentials. The organiser (a Bournemouth fan, but son an Evertonian) gleefully told me 2 months ago they'd arranged this, and was sure I would have a question or two for him.

Last night, I walked in, and he was at the bar... I ignored him and got meself a drink, then joined a couple of friends for a chat.

He then walks over, introduces himself and shakes my hand. Every bit the affable Geordie.

When he got up to speak, he spoke as a football fan, someone who aspired to be a player but accepted a "lesser" role in football when it was apparent he wouldn't make the grade, a Geordie fan, and someone who'd been through the ringer professionally (and personally). He'd been cheered and jeered in equal measure when he started (apparently in 13 games he reffed featuring Crystal Palace, they never won a game).

Afterwards, I found myself talking to him again, when a colleague (Stockport County fan) told him I was an embittered Everton fan. Before I could speak, Mark Clattenburg silenced me.

- He was disappointed I hadn't raised that as a question during the Q&A
- He knew he'd had a 'mare in that game
- He wasn't influenced by Slippy on the Hibbert red card (not sure I believe that....)
- He should have sent off Kuyt (Sloth from Goonies) for that assault on Neville
- He should've given a penalty when Carragher wrestled Lescott to the ground
- The game should've finished 2-2 (and there'd have been discontent on both sides, but nothing lingering 10½ years, and counting!)

So two things I never thought I'd say:
1) I found him a thoroughly pleasant, engaging guy
2) I actually bought him a drink!

He's now based here in Riyadh (coaching referees) so we said we'd catch up over dinner. I will try to get to the bottom of that Hibbert sending off...

Reader Comments (30)

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Ian Burns
1 Posted 01/05/2018 at 13:33:36
Matt - when you go to dinner with Clattenburg, ask him to show you his whistle; then take it and shove it so far up his arse he whistles every time he walks – then explain that's precisely how he reffed our games.
Vinny Garstrokes
2 Posted 01/05/2018 at 18:43:33
So when are you going on a city break with Collina?
Matt Traynor
3 Posted 01/05/2018 at 19:50:28
Vinny, he mentioned that Collina was one of his biggest friends in refereeing - so I'll save the Marcus Bent "foul" conversation for that dinner.

I forgot to add, he also told me Sam Allardyce is another big mate of his, and he can't understand why Everton fans are so against him. At this stage there was a few around us - West Ham fans, and a couple of others, all furiously agreeing.

Basically he said that Sam guaranteed 8-10th place, and we should be delighted with that.

We've all heard that narrative in the media recently, and it dawned on me that really that's what fans outside of Toffeeworld actually believe. The Moyes "punching above our weight" years has really set the benchmark for our expectations, apparently.

Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 01/05/2018 at 20:16:22
Matt, I hope you poured that drink all over him, then it wouldn't have wasted.

Bought Clattenburg a drink !!!!!!!unbelievable.

Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 01/05/2018 at 20:28:06
You could tell by the way Clattenberg refereed, that he had definitely played a bit of football Matt, and it's also very interesting to read first hand, the way some people in football view Everton now.

I remember playing a game and I thought the ref was okay, because you could have a bit of banter with him. Anyway I was half winding him up after the game, when we were all in the showers, and he suddenly told me he had refereed the first all Merseyside cup final at wembley.

He was shocked when I started shouting at him that he was a fucking disgrace in that game, and there was no way he wouldn't have gave those red bastards a penalty!

I can't remember the fella's name, but it didn't take him long to start trying to snitch on me, for my outburst, but isn't that referees for you anyway!

Steve Ferns
7 Posted 01/05/2018 at 21:36:09
Interesting tale well told Matt. I hope to read part 2 with the bung taker. If so, ask him about his part in the "Calciopoli" scandal in Italy, and why he was never prosecuted. His role in that tells you all you need to know about his role in the Villarreal game.

Tony, if you ever want to know how other fans view Everton, just think of the way we dismiss Villa as a none-entity, particularly before they were relegated. Villa fans believe they are a much bigger club than us and point to winning the European Cup (beats our ECWC) and winning more trophies (one more due to FA Cups won), I always tell them that it's the league that counts and it'll be another 50 years before they get to 9. London based fans seem to think Everton is on the level of West Ham! Have they even won a trophy?

But that's the reality check most blues need to see. As regards to global profile, there's 6 teams in the Premier League and 14 others you barely remember, and us being in the 14 means we have barely any kudos, unless you're talking to someone a lot older who remembers the 80s, but then remember there was nothing like the TV coverage we have now, not even 1% of it.

Chris Leyland
8 Posted 01/05/2018 at 21:48:19
The ‘big 6' narrative is well and truly established now by the media and Sky in particular, but the sad thing is, we actually finished in the top 6 in five of the eight seasons prior to Martinez taking us to back to back 11th places finishes. In those days there was only ever a ‘big 4' though as far as the media were concerned.
Keith Harrison
9 Posted 01/05/2018 at 21:51:03
Matt, did he ask you for a drink because he's a declared bankrupt? Despite what the RS must have paid him.
Lay off Accountants too. Salt of the earth fine upstanding hilarious guys.
Chris Leyland
10 Posted 01/05/2018 at 21:52:16
In fact we finished top 6 in six out of the ten years prior to the back to back 11th place finishes. We actually made top 5 four times during that period too. I think we refer to it as the ‘knife to a gunfight years' don't we?
Keith Harrison
11 Posted 01/05/2018 at 21:52:43
Andy Crooks
12 Posted 01/05/2018 at 22:00:56
Matt, you really need to ask him "Are you staring at my missus?" and take it from there. I guess, though, you don't want a red card in Saudi Arabia.
Kevin Gillen
13 Posted 02/05/2018 at 10:16:22
I don't blame the referees although they should be forced to do an Unconscious Bias training session every six months. The big clubs bully and intimidate referees and it takes a lot to stand up to it.
Rob Dolby
14 Posted 03/05/2018 at 08:41:26
I don't recall being on the right side of too many debatable refereeing decisions over the years maybe that's just me being biased. The Wimbledon penalty was debatable and this year's derby was a soft one there are bound to be others.

I do think that the so-called big clubs get the 50/50 decisions making the ref almost like a 12th man. Wenger mentioned that Andy Johnson won too many soft pens then for the next 12 months we didn't get a pen. That just shows how powerful the media and big clubs are.

Neville mentioned not long after he joined us that he would never get the same yellow cards for Man Utd. Does Fellaini get the same amount of cards now at Man Utd? It's a fact that, when we play the top clubs, we also have to contend with decisions going against us: Niasse getting a ban when blocked off the ball. Physically there was contact.

Most Premier League games have players diving about. Bernardo Silva diving 3 foot in the air, no contact — penalty given no retrospective ban. From:

Clive Thomas's handball on Brian Hamilton;
Robinson's Milk Cup Final handball;
Colina pension booster performance against Fiorentina;
3-card-trick Poll blowing the whistle after the ball goes into the net off Don Hutchison's back;
Twatenberg in the Derby...

The list goes on.

Does anyone think that VAR is the answer?

Shane Corcoran
15 Posted 03/05/2018 at 09:00:51
Chris #8, the Top Four was used as it was mainly the same four teams that finished in it. We bucked the trend once but otherwise it was United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Now, the Top Six has been the same six clubs for the past number of years, all interchanging, hence why this term is used.

One way to stop being seen to be a small time club is to stop whingeing about refs and how media terms as if everyone is against us.

As for ref decisions over the years, how about Bolton's goal that wasn't in the year they went down instead of us?

Ray Roche
16 Posted 03/05/2018 at 09:16:53
Shane, please don't drag up the Bolton goal. If the referee had seen that he'd also have seen the blatant foul on Southall that prevented him getting to the ball. Yet another old nutmeg that people bring up to rewrite history. I'm still seeing people talk about Catterick getting kicked at Blackpool
Rob Halligan
17 Posted 03/05/2018 at 09:28:20
Shane, you mention one incident over how many years, that went in our favour? I actually think that was a clear foul on Southall, but the goal was not given because the officials thought the ball hadn't crossed the line.

As well as the penalty incident against wimbledon, mentioned by Rob Dolby above, the only other incident I can think of going in our favour, off the top of my head, is the disallowed goal for ratboy in the last minute of the derby a few years back, when he was clearly onside. Having said that he shouldn't have been on the pitch anyway due to two terrible challenges on Distin and Mirallas.

Anyway, my point of this post is, I have just read on the BBC website that the Roma President is demanding VAR in the CL after apparently two clear penalties were not awarded for Roma. The first one I didn't see, but the second was was as clear as daylight, a blatant handball against Alexander-Arnold.

Roma were finally awarded a penalty in the last minute of added time, but three penalties against the RS in one game? Never in a million years.

Shane Corcoran
18 Posted 03/05/2018 at 09:40:02
Rob and Ray, I gave it no consideration whatsoever, but I'm betting there are plenty. The reason I can't rhyme them off is because I don't believe that refs are out to get us. It makes no sense.

I didn't see the penalty decisions last night either, but one of them wasn't given because the linesman had flagged for offside prior to the incident. But it doesn't matter. I'm to believe that as well as the FA and Premier League, that UEFA are also closet Liverpool fans and, by extension, so are the European referees.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I think that is untrue, to put it mildly, and I'm often accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

Refereeing decisions and Liverpool F.C. should be the last thing on any Blue's mind considering the mess we're in.

I remember the 5-0 loss to Liverpool under Martinez and at half time on the Live Forum there were a handful of people criticising the ref. Incredible.

Rob Halligan
19 Posted 03/05/2018 at 09:48:48
Shane, the Roma President is saying Dzeko was wrongly flagged for offside before being upended by the RS goalkeeper. I missed the first few minutes of the second half (as well as a lot of the second half once it was clear the RS were going through) so can't comment on that. The handball was blatant against Alexander -Arnold.
Shane Corcoran
20 Posted 03/05/2018 at 10:06:22
Rob, yes, that's what I heard too but also didn't see it.

I've just being talking to a Liverpool fan who reminded me of the penalty that Roma got in the first leg. Absolutely that wasn't a penalty. Mane was also pushed in the back in the area last night in the first half; no penalty given. Both of these were incorrect in my view.

I didn't see the last minute penalty last night but I'm told it was soft enough.

But I don't care about Liverpool. There's probably a bit of media bias towards them in the UK but let's not kid ourselves. But Everton are not suffering to any great extent due to refereeing decisions, in my view.

Colin Glassar
21 Posted 03/05/2018 at 10:15:56
Clive Thomas, Pierluigi Colina and Mark Clatterberk. Say no more
Colin Glassar
22 Posted 03/05/2018 at 10:21:11
Oh and Matt, you should've reported him to the drink police for illegal boozing. A few nights in a Saudi cell would've done him a world of good.
Ray Roche
24 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:01:08
Shane, the so called big clubs have had the rub of the green for years. By design or “ accident “ they have been favoured by officials, ranging from Fergie Time to endless dodgy penalty decisions and anyone who can't see that is blind.
We may well have been lucky on occasions but compared to the RS or United we are also rans.
Shane Corcoran
25 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:06:04
Ray, yes I've heard all that before. What I haven't seen is any evidence, i.e. an analysis of it.

And who are the big clubs? It used to be (allegedly) the Top 4. Now it's the Top 6. How did Spurs and City get promoted to the Top Table and why? If someone throws Abrahomovich money at, say Newcastle, do they automatically start getting the rub of the green? I'm genuinely looking for the logic.

Was Fergie Time unfair or was it just that United played to the bitter end in every game as demanded by their excellent manager?

Tom Bowers
26 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:20:17
When results don't go your way it's so easy to get on the referee's case and yes, I know it's so frustrating when everyone know's a ref. has bottled a big decision which could have changed a result.

Like players, none of them are perfect and are prone to the occasional error which, because of worldwide television can be blown out of all proportion especially when it involves the big money clubs.

We Evertonians have seen our fair share and usually in games against RS ( Clive Thomas at Maine Rd. still sticks out).

I think the league is partly to blame for the officiating these days. They have not sorted out the shenanigans in the penalty area properly and usually the ref. always takes the easy way out and penalises the offensive team rather than give a penalty.

The offside rule needs to be modified in a way that calls for clear daylight between the forward and the last player before being flagged. It is too fine a margin when players are deemed level for a linesman to differentiate and far often gets it wrong.

Back in the day before T.V. slow motion replays; officials were never given such a hard time but of course now they are too blame for everything.

For the record I am not and never have been a referee.

Dave Newton
27 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:24:08
I remember in Rooney's first season at Man Utd, they were playing at Highbury and he spent most of the game swearing in Graham Poll's face, and didn't even receive a booking.

A couple of seasons later, also against Arsenal, James McFadden swears at the same Graham Poll once and is given a straight red.

Shane Corcoran
28 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:30:52
Completely agree Tom. The job is impossible. And, as welcome as VAR is, it only goes to show that even with it in place, there are some decisions that are open to interpretation.

The handball rule is completely subjective as far as I can see and I for one don't know when a free should or shouldn't be given when the hand makes contact with the ball.

The offside is factually impossible to get right as you have to be looking in two places at once. If anyone watched the Sky programme where Neville and Carragher visited the Premier League refs, the officials actually admitted that close offside calls are based on an educated guess, depending on how much space is between the two players when they actually turn their eyes to the forward.

I think the rules need to be made easier to referee or fans need to get real about the levels of performance they can expect from the officials.

Lawrence Green
29 Posted 03/05/2018 at 13:43:25
There will always be a debate between what's deemed to be a penalty and what isn't. Whether it is deliberate on behalf of the officials that they tend to give unwarranted awards to the bigger/richer clubs and fail to award similar to clubs outside of the elite, is also debateable. I would think that the pressure to award in favour of the elite clubs given the size of their fan-base, the media storm when something goes against the chosen clubs is enormous and the officials are only human and therefore have the same triggers as the rest of us.

As for VAR if the games administrators wanted it to work in an efficient manner it would already be up and running, but it seems that football doesn't really want the added scrutiny for whatever reason.

The table below shows Penalties awarded in Premier League games between 2002 and the start of last month.
Team For Against Home Away
L'pool 92 61 47 45
Man C 91 54 66 25
Chelsea 88 42 59 29
Man U 83 42 56 27
Arsenal 83 69 56 27
Spurs 72 63 42 30
Everton 67 61 43 24

Footy Facts

Dave Newton
30 Posted 03/05/2018 at 14:20:31
It also amused me when players from the then Sky 4 who got away with murder at club level every week would pull on an England shirt and had to deal with fair referees and didn't know what had hit them.

No-one was taken in by Gerard's diving. At the last World Cup he played in, Carragher got 2 bookings in the first 2 games and was subsequently banned.

Going back further, Sol Campbell's disallowed goal against Argentina was a by-product of the fact that Shearer got away with using his elbows in the domestic game to the point where he probably thought it was within the rules to knock the keeper's arms away when going for a cross.

Add to Beckham's and Rooney's petulance being justly punished for once and England fans claim there's a ref's conspiracy against them!!

Rob Dolby
31 Posted 03/05/2018 at 15:27:34
@14 Note to ED. We played Villareal in the Collina game not Fiorentina
Steve Hogan
32 Posted 08/05/2018 at 19:17:59
Hi Matt
A couple of points re Clattenburg. He was not universally liked by his fellow referees as he was seen to be 'too flash'. In fairness, after the early debacle of THAT derby, he wasn't given a game at Goodison for a very long time.

But, a referee who admits to having a 'mare', unheard of? I actually thought he was one of our better referees in the last five years of his time in the Premiership, UEFA also thought so, as he was on their elite list of referees.

Evertonian's have long memories, and yes he did have a stinker against the RS, but as time passes by, everything should be put in perspective, I'm more frustrated and angry at the total ineptitude in the boardroom over twenty years, than a poor display by a referee.

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