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Mark Clattenburg aims for new era of refereeing in Saudi Arabia

Mark Clattenburg aims to usher in a professional refereeing set-up in Saudi Arabia after quitting his role as one of the Premier League's leading officials to take a senior position in the Middle East country.

The 41-year-old Englishman, who took charge of the finals of Euro 2016 and last season's Champions League and FA Cup, had been linked with a move abroad for some time and on Thursday it was announced by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation that he is to manage referees in the the country.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation which provides and trains officials for the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association, confirmed his departure and it is anticipated he will not officiate any more matches in the English top-flight.

Clattenburg, who became an assistant referee in the Northern League at 18, had reportedly grown unhappy with the level of public support officials are given by PGMOL.

But he hopes he will be backed to implement his ideas in Saudi Arabia.

He said on the Saudi Arabia Football Federation's Twitter page: "This is an important move forward. We have professional referees in the country that I am leaving, which has been a big positive.

"One thing I'd like to do is work with the refereeing team and the president to make this happen so that it will be successful for many, many years to come."

With no Premier League fixtures this weekend, Clattenburg's final top-flight game was Arsenal's 2-0 win over Hull on Saturday - another game with a refereeing controversy when a handball was missed before Alexis Sanchez's opening goal.

Hull have also been fined £20,000 for failing to control their players, who surrounded Clattenburg following his decision to show Arsenal full-back Kieran Gibbs a yellow card for fouling Lazar Markovic when the winger was clear on goal.

Clattenburg has been a FIFA referee since 2006 and also officiated the Olympic men's football final at London 2012.

His career has not been without lows, though, as he served an eight-month suspension in 2008 and 2009 after PGMOL investigated his business dealings, and in 2012 Chelsea made a formal complaint that he had used inappropriate language towards Jon Obi Mikel during a game against Manchester United. He was, however, cleared of any wrongdoing.

He was also reprimanded by PGMOL boss Mike Riley in 2014 for breaches of protocol when he drove to Newcastle to see an Ed Sheeran concert after refereeing a Crystal Palace versus West Brom game and speaking to Palace manager Neil Warnock on the phone after the game.

The PGMOL paid tribute to Clattenburg, saying in a statement: " The Professional Game Match Officials Limited would like to wish Mark Clattenburg well as he prepares for his move to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.

"Since joining the PGMOL Select Group in 2004, Mark developed into one of our top officials, refereeing at the highest level and setting standards for others to follow.

"His accomplishments are numerous and last season saw Mark achieve a memorable treble, on top of another consistently excellent season in the Premier League, as he officiated three major cup finals - the FA Cup final, the UEFA Champions League final and the UEFA Euro 2016 final.

"Mark is a talented referee, he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grass roots of the game. We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark as well as further underlining what high esteem English match officials are held throughout the world game."

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