Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg believes mental health is a serious problem among officials and said heavy pressure is the reason he left in 2017.
Clattenburg refereed at the highest level in England for 13 years and was considered one of the best European referees at the time.
In addition to his 297 Premier League matches, Clattenburg also took over a number of high-profile matches around the world, including the 2016 Champions League final and the 2016 European Championship final.
However, he admits that the pressure to referee at the highest level is the reason he left the league for a position with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in February 2017.
“The stress levels of refereeing in the Premier League [were a factor]”Clattenburg said.
“Most umpires last eight to 10 years and then finish due to stress, daily training and pressure on their body. Doing 13 years was a very difficult task.”
But with more conversations about mental health in soccer today, Clattenburg feels that more referees could get the support they need to move forward.
“I think in the past it was [seen as] a sign of weakness, but now more and more people are talking. Therefore, football supports not only the players, but the referees, “added Clattenburg.
“When I was going through the system, I had to use people, friends. They used to help me deal with the problems I used to have, deal with abuse, problems in your private life.
“It is always difficult because you are in the public eye and you have a responsibility, but, either way, it is important that people go out and get the help they need.”
Clattenburg’s career in the limelight coincided with the growth of social media, and the referee asked social media companies to do more in the fight against online abuse.
“I’m still getting abused on social media and it’s really sad to see the abuse that umpires get,” Clattenburg added.
“I got death threats and the social media companies didn’t do anything about it. What does it take, someone to get hurt? Or like what we’re seeing now, players being racially abused? It’s not right, it shouldn’t be thus. in today’s society “.
Clattenburg also feels that if referees could speak after games and explain their decisions, they could be understood a little more by fans, players, coaches and analysts.
“I am totally in favor of the referees being transparent, I am totally in favor of the referees being open,” he said. “Why not? It’s an open world.
“Referees need to communicate their decisions. I think that if it is done in a controlled environment it would benefit the game because people can understand why a referee made a decision, whether it is correct or incorrect.”
‘I fell in love with the game after the Mikel incident’
Clattenburg also opened up about the period in his career where he fell in love with the game after being accused of using racial language with Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel in October 2012.
The club made a formal complaint to the FA against Clattenburg for his alleged use of “inappropriate language” towards the player during a match against Manchester United with a police investigation also launched.
And although the FA cleared Clattenburg of wrongdoing and the police investigation was subsequently dropped as well, Clattenburg felt he was treated unfairly throughout the ordeal.
“Being accused of something you haven’t done is really hard to handle,” Clattenburg said.
“Being convicted of something before you’ve had a chance to speak is really hard to handle because I’ve always believed that you should be innocent until proven otherwise.
“However, that was not the case and I did not want to go back and be a referee at the time because unfortunately I fell in love with the game.
“But I had a mortgage to pay, a family to take care of, and that’s why I had to go back to arbitration. I was lucky that over the years I fell in love with football again and it made me achieve what I really did.”
Clattenburg’s new book Whistle Blower: My Autobiography is published on September 30.