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More than 200 people attended the event to listen to Mark Clattenburg, right, pictured with MC Bob Fig.

Top ref says encouragement is key to improvement

Football West News

Former English Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg mixed humour and personal anecdotes with some important messaging during an entertaining evening at Dorrien Gardens on Friday night.

Clattenburg, who was named the world’s best referee in 2016, spoke of keeping in check the flare and flamboyance of some of the game’s biggest characters including Sir Alex Ferguson and Mario Balotelli, while also hitting the mark on more serious issues.

More than 200 people attended the Football West function at the home of Perth SC to listen to Clattenburg, who has taken charge of football’s top matches, including the 2016 European Championships and Champions League finals and the 2012 Olympic Games final.

“It was about passing on my experiences and telling some funny stories,” said Clattenburg, after post-event photo opportunities.

“I wanted to give people an insight into what it’s like to referee (at the top level). I also wanted to help educate some of the younger referees.”

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Clattenburg recently took up a referee coaching role in Saudi Arabia after hanging up his whistle and remains committed to improving standards and attitudes towards officials.

He spoke openly of the impact public scrutiny had on referees, especially since the rise of social media, and called for players, coaches and parents to think before criticising grassroots officials.

“Young referees need support,” he said. “I was lucky because when I was refereeing junior football I was protected a bit by parents, who wanted to encourage me to referee. When you’re being encouraged and you’re enjoying it, you become a better referee.

“Hopefully coaches and parents can think about the impact they can have.”

Clattenburg said respect initiatives often failed because the message was not sustained.

“They have to find a solution,” he said. “There are initiatives where pitches are roped off to stop parents getting closer to the pitch and only the coach can speak. But they fail because after a while the message is forgotten.

“When I go to see my son play I don’t speak. I might think the referee has made a mistake but it’s honest. And guess what? My son makes five million mistakes but people don’t focus on that.

“There is a blame culture in life and the referee gets it.”

The Football West event, which was hosted by Bob Figg, was Clattenburg’s third Australian Q&A in three nights after previous speaking engagements in Melbourne and Adelaide.

He spoke about mistakes, anxiety, resilience and the need for extreme mental toughness at the top level. He also reflected on the friendships and fun he had had during a distinguished career.