Mark Clattenburg’s argument that female umpires “have to choose” between pregnancy and their careers has been called into question on talkSPORT.
The ex-Premier League referee joined the Breakfast show on Thursday morning to discuss the rise of women as sports officials.
England rugby star Joe Marler asked Clattenburg why football is so far behind given that Sara Cox took charge of a Harlequins game he played this weekend.
Clattenburg said: “The problem with female referees in football is that they have a difficult path, where if they get pregnant it can stop them in a long way. So they have to make this choice: do they want to be pregnant and have children or do they want to be referees?
“They also have to pass the men’s fitness test. Many women struggle with the men’s fitness test. If you want to be a part of men’s football, you have to meet these criteria.
“If they succeed in all of this and choose the right path, I think women should be involved in the men’s game.”
Asked about his perspective by talkSPORT host Alan Brazil, Clattenburg said, “You have to make sacrifices, I’ve made big sacrifices. Women have to make that sacrifice. Let’s say if they reach a certain level arbitration, and they want to get to that next level, if you get pregnant it can cost you two or three years of your life.
“Once you lose those three years, someone else takes your place. If you want to have babies, you have to do it early in your career.
“If you have a baby, you’re out for nine months, then it takes six months to recover, and passing this men’s fitness test is very demanding.”
But Clattenburg’s opinion is not shared by some of the talkSPORT presenters, like Natalie Sawyer, who hit back at the former Premier League manager.
She said: “He called it a ‘problem’. It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge for women. Of course, it is not easy, you have to take time off from work and get back in shape in all areas.
“Many sports athletes have come back after having a baby. Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Alex Morgan played for Tottenham after having a baby. She is now back in America to play.
“There are a lot of people who have come back to that level of fitness to be the star of the sport they want to be.
“You can definitely get back into shape. “
Meanwhile, talkSPORT England correspondent Faye Curruthers was outraged by Clattenburg’s comments.
She tweeted: “Wow Mark Clattenburg, what time do you live in? !!!
“’Pregnancy is costing you 2/3 years of your life’ This is exactly the kind of ridiculous statement that has held us back for so long and that has made many of us fearful of getting pregnant. “
Although there is still a lot of work to be done, female referees are starting to break into men’s football.
Sian Massey-Ellis is Premier League assistant and Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a Champions League match last season.
They are the trailblazers, paving the way for the addition of Rebecca Welch to the national referee roster this season, taking over matches in Leagues 1 and 2.
Speaking to talkSPORT ahead of Clattenburg’s comments, Welch insists there is a path for women in this profession.
She said, “It’s like anything, if you’re supported there’s a good chance you’ll be good at it.”
“I watch our young girls come in now and tell them that this can be a career for them in the next ten years. It could become a full time job.
“There is a draw there and there is a carrot at the top for anyone willing to work hard enough to make it happen.”
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