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Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has revealed how he was hilariously handed a one-match ban for attending an Ed Sheeran concert and answering a phone call from Neil Warnock.
The County Durham official, 47, left the English top-flight in 2017 to pursue a new challenge with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, replacing Howard Webb as their Head of Refereeing.
As well as spending over a decade officiating in the Premier League, Clattenburg is famed for a controversial tattoo of the Champions League trophy on his left arm after taking charge of the 2014 final between city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico.
Speaking exclusively at the launch of Ladbrokes' 5-A-Side Bet on the Champions League Final, the ex-ref recalled how he was caught out not following protocols when trying to dash off from a Premier League game to catch an Ed Sheeran concert.
"On this one occasion, I was reffing a game between West Brom and Crystal Palace. Before the match I'd asked West Brom if I could get a car parking pass, which wasn't a problem. So I leave my car at The Hawthorns and then one of my colleagues took me to the team hotel so I could travel back to the ground with my officials.
"I was in the team hotel preparing for the match four hours before kick-off, as we always would. We got the people carrier to the stadium as a group so no security measures were breached. After the match, I stuck around for thirty minutes, filling out my reports and doing everything i needed to do.
"After that, I left the stadium and headed back up to Newcastle because I had tickets to see Ed Sheeran. I knew if I headed back with my team to the hotel, into Birmingham, and then travelled back up north, I wouldn't have made it back in time.
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"So I left in my car, got onto the motorway, and during the journey home I had a call from an unknown number. I pull over and pick up and it was Neil Warnock, who was Palace's manager at the time. He was questioning my performance, in particular one decision he thought I'd got wrong.
"He was upset, and instead of doing what most coaches do, which was go through the delegate, he decided he wanted to speak to me directly, so he got my number from someone and called me there and then. Instead of killing me in the media, he decided to speak to me privately.
"He'd had media obligations after the game and my door was always open to him if he'd wanted to speak to me in-person. If I'd have known he wanted to speak to me, of course I wouldn't have left the ground, but because it had been half an hour, I just assumed I was good to go.
"The next day, I called my management team and told them Neil had spoken to me after the game on the phone. I had to report that to them because of the manner of how it happened, from an unknown number, a manager was speaking directly to me.
"They told me I shouldn't have answered the call. I said 'but how was I to know?' You know, it was an unknown number; was I supposed to just put the phone down when I found out it was Neil? I wasn't going to do that.
"Anyway, they found out during that call that I'd left the ground on my own to go up to the Ed Sheeran concert, and I hadn't gone back to the hotel. I didn't think I'd breached the rules, especially when I knew that other referees had done a lot more than that.
"Next thing I know, the list of appointments had come out for the next round of games, and I wasn't on it. I wasn't even down as a fourth official. When I spoke to the management, they told me I was given a one-match ban for going to an Ed Sheeran gig, which I just thought was absolutely ridiculous."
Clattenburg added: "It was good publicity for Ed Sheeran, but not so much for me. Was the concert good, though? Yeah, it was great. I'm seeing him again in a couple of weeks! At least this time I can go and not worry about getting banned for it!"
- Premier League
- Ed Sheeran
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