Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg will continue to officiate at matches in England until the end of the season, when he joins the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, but is unlikely to take charge of any big games.
Last week, it was reported that the 41-year-old had turned his back on the Premier League after agreeing to take over from Howard Webb as head of referees in the Gulf State.
"However, he remains under contract with Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) until the end of the current campaign and, having spoken with the referees’ manager, Mike Riley, over recent days, will be available until the summer," reports The Guardian.
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"Depending on commitments relating to his new role, he is likely to oversee at least four matches between now and the end of the campaign, when he will formally take up his £500,000-a-year tax free role in Riyadh. He is understood to have turned down an even more lucrative offer to work in China."
Clattenberg's first game since news of his departure emerged will be at West Brom, who face Bournemouth on Saturday.
After his decision to quit the country, the Daily Mail says, "PGMOL may choose to keep him away from high-profile fixtures, such as Liverpool versus Arsenal seven days later, a match to which he would usually be assigned".
The decision to move to a footballing backwater like Saudi Arabia also suggests that Clattenburg, regarded as the best ref in the world and who oversaw the FA Cup, Champions League and Euro 2016 finals last year, appears to have "given up on his dream of refereeing a World Cup final", adds the paper.
News of his delayed departure may be welcomed at Spurs, the team with the best record in matches he has officiated, winning seven and losing only two of their 11 matches, says the Daily Mirror.
Relegation-threatened Crystal Palace will be praying they manage to avoid Clattenburg for the rest of the season. He has taken charge of Palace 11 times and they have failed to win a single one of those games.
Referee Mark Clattenburg quits the Premier League
Referee Mark Clattenburg may have taken charge of his final game in the Premier League after growing fed up with a perceived lack of support from the officials' governing body.
Clattenburg, who last season took charge of the FA Cup, Champions League and Euro 2016 finals, has been tempted by the offer of a move to Major League Soccer in the US, or even the Chinese Super League. "An announcement is imminent with fellow Select Group One refs fully aware of the situation," says The Sun.
The paper claims the referee asked to be released from his contract with Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation responsible for match officials, before Christmas but was turned down.
"Talks are ongoing over a financial package with the feeling among fellow top refs it is now no longer a question of if Clattenburg walks away but when," says the Sun.
Clattenburg, who will have the weekend off after being overlooked for a fifth round FA Cup tie, "is unhappy with the PGMOL management, the way it is run, the management style of Mike Riley as well as the lack of support and quality coaching on offer", adds the paper.
In addition to offers from the US and China, Clattenburg could ply his trade in the Gulf or take up the offer of punditry with BT Sport, it is claimed.
A move into TV could be seen as ironic after the Daily Mail claimed this week that Clattenburg was "increasingly tired of the level of scrutiny which follows high-profile decisions, such as his failure to disallow Alexis Sanchez's handball goal during Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Hull on Saturday".
Marina Hyde of The Guardian appears unsympathetic. As he plots his "Garbo-like exile", Clattenburg would do well to remember that "being able to withstand scrutiny of high‑profile decisions is his job".
But she is concerned about a possible departure and urges him to stay. "I must say I have always enjoyed the posturings of refereeing's Mark Clattenburg – and now more than ever," she declares. "We live in an age where preposterous characters who aren't capable of blundering us into nuclear security breaches are surely to be treasured."
"It may sound tempting now, but I can assure Mark – and his busy agent – that he's never going to get the I'm A Celeb booking all the way over there, much less the memoirs deal for an opus provisionally entitled I, Clattenburg."
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