Euro 2016 final ref's rollercoaster ride

Mark Clattenburg (AFP)
Mark Clattenburg (AFP)

Paris - The Englishman appointed to referee the European Championship final on Sunday has enjoyed a rollercoaster career that saw him appointed as the youngest elite referee in England and then survive a series of setbacks before rising to the top.

Mark Clattenburg's season comes to an end at the final between France and Portugal at the Stade de France on the edge of Paris with his 50th game since last August, having already refereed England's FA Cup final and the Champion's League final.

Clattenburg, 41, is a controversial figure reportedly unpopular among England's conservative refereeing elite, but supported by ex-referee and UEFA refereeing chief Pierluigi Collina.

The former head of England's elite referees' organization, Keith Hackett, said Clattenburg had beaten the system, and had been rightly rewarded with Sunday's final. "He deserves it thoroughly," Hackett told the "You are the Ref" website, "not least for having the mental fortitude to keep going in the face of what appears to have been a lack of faith among his bosses."

Hackett said England's refereeing bosses had pushed referee Martin Atkinson as their candidate to represent England at the European Championship, but Collina had pressed Clattenburg's cause. In the end, England was allowed to be the only country that sent two teams of match officials to the tournament.

Clattenburg has officiated at three games in France, none of which has proved controversial. He was praised for his handling of incidents in the game between Croatia and the Czech Republic when he had to suspend play after flares were thrown onto the pitch.

Quietly spoken and with a strong accent from his home in north-eastern England, Clattenburg is known for his fitness and calm authority on the pitch, although most referees under Collina have shown unprecedented fitness levels in France.

His relations with his bosses in England are often under the spotlight and are still reported to be strained.

In 2014 he was dropped from refereeing for a week when he broke protocol to get to a concert by singer Ed Sheeran in time.

Referees are supposed to travel to games together, meeting at a hotel, to avoid security problems. But Clattenburg parked his car at West Bromwich Albion's stadium so that he could leave quickly and drive to Newcastle to see Sheeran.

In August 2000, Clattenburg made history as the youngest post-war referee in the Football League, at 25, and was on FIFA's elite list of officials at the age of 30.

Like most referees, he has been insulted many times by teams who feel a sense of injustice at his decisions, but his worst period came in 2009, when he was sacked as an elite referee after being accused of threatening a business associate in an email.

Clattenburg denied all the accusations and his appeal was successful. He was nonetheless banned for eight months by England's Professional Game Match Officials Limited and reminded of his "responsibilities and contractual obligations as a select group official."

Since then, he has flourished.

In the last season, over 50 games, he has shown 183 yellow cards and seven red cards, including eight yellow cards in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

He was accused in that match of going easy on Real defender Pepe, who many agreed should have been shown a second yellow card. Pepe, if he is fit, will be playing for Portugal in Sunday's final. Both teams have a number of English Premier League players who Clattenburg will know well.


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