Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg believes mental health is a serious issue among officials and has said the enormous pressure is the reason he left in 2017.
Clattenburg refereed at the highest level in England for 13 years and was widely regarded as one of the best European referees at that time.
In addition to his 297 Premier League appearances, Clattenburg has also supported a number of high profile matches across the world, including the 2016 Champions League final and Euro 2016 final.
However, he admits that the pressure of refereeing at the highest level is the reason he left the league for a role in the Saudi Football Association in February 2017.
“The stress level of Premier League refereeing [were a factor]”said Clattenburg.
“Most umpires last eight to ten years and then end because of the stress, the daily training and the pressure on your body. Going 13 was a very difficult request.”
But with more conversations about mental health in football today, Clattenburg believes 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 speaking out. Therefore, football supports not only the players, but also the referees, ”added Clattenburg.
“When I was going through the system, I had to use people – friendships. They were helping me deal with issues that I had before – dealing with abuse, issues in your privacy.
“It’s always difficult because you are in the public eye and have a responsibility, but, anyway, it’s important that people come out and get the help they need.”
Clattenburg’s career in the limelight has coincided with the growth of social media, with the arbitrator calling on social media companies to do more in the fight against online abuse.
“I always get abuse on social media and it’s really sad to see the abuse the referees go through,” Clattenburg added.
“I’ve received death threats and the social media companies wouldn’t do anything about it. What does it take, someone to get hurt? Or like what we’re seeing now, racially abused players? is not correct, it should not be in today’s society. “
Clattenburg also believes that if the referees could speak after games and explain their decisions, they could be understood a bit more by fans, players, coaches and analysts.
“I am for the referees to be transparent, I am for the referees to be open,” he said. “Why not? It’s an open world.
“Referees need to communicate their decisions. I think if this is done in a controlled environment it will benefit the game because people can understand why a referee made a decision – good or bad.”
“I fell in love with the game after the Mikel incident”
Clattenburg also referred to the period in his career when he fell in love with the game after being accused of using racial language towards Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel in October 2012.
The club have lodged an official complaint with the FA against Clattenburg over his alleged use of “inappropriate language” towards the player during a game against Manchester United with a police investigation also launched.
And although the FA cleared Clattenburg of wrongdoing and the police investigation was also subsequently dropped, Clattenburg felt he had been treated unfairly throughout the ordeal.
“Being accused of something you didn’t do is really hard to deal with,” Clattenburg said.
“Being convicted of something before you’ve even had a chance to speak up is really hard to deal with because I’ve always thought you should be innocent until proven guilty.
“However, that wasn’t the case and I didn’t want to come back to officiate at that point because unfortunately I fell in love with the game.
“But I had a mortgage to pay, a family to support, so I had to go back to refereeing. I was lucky that over the years I fell in love with football again and that to me. made it possible to achieve what I actually did. “
Clattenburg’s new book Whistle Blower: My Autobiography is released on September 30.