The eight ingredients of a celebrity referee: Pride, authority, banter…

In December 2017, Mark Clattenburg claimed he allowed Tottenham to “self-destruct” in the infamous Battle of the Bridge – instantly enhancing the brand of celebrity referees.

Needing a win to have any chance of catching Leicester City in the 2015-16 title race, Tottenham slipped to a 2-2 draw in a fiery encounter at Stamford Bridge.

Clattenburg could have sent off a number of Spurs players, but the former Premier League referee insists it was all part of his “gameplan”.

He told NBC’s Men in Blazers: “I allowed them [Spurs] to self-destruct so all the media, all the people in the world went, ‘Tottenham lost the title.’

Clattenburg added: “I helped the game. I certainly benefited the game by my style of refereeing.

“Some referees would have played by the book; Tottenham would have been down to seven or eight players and probably lost and they would’ve been looking for an excuse.

“But I didn’t give them an excuse, because my gameplan was: let them lose the title.”

Clattenburg is a prime example of an increasingly common facet of modern football: the celebrity referee. We’ve taken a look at the eight main ingredients which make up one of the most bizarre breeds of humanity.


The common consensus that the less you noticed a referee, the better he officiated does not apply to the celebrity referee. Their achievements are just as noteworthy as those of the players who we pay to watch.

And that is why Clattenburg can be found sporting tattoos commemorating the fact he was The Chosen One for the finals of the Champions League and European Championships in 2016.

No, he didn’t score a goal. No, he didn’t make a save. No, he wasn’t the brains behind a tactical masterplan. But he was the man in the middle.


Football is a game defined by its banter. It’s essentially the Facebook newsfeed for the whole world. Players, managers, commentators, pundits, fans, mascots – whether you care to admit it or not, you love the banter, the lot of you.

Celebrity referees – and it is worth remembering that they are only human; weird, strange humans, but humans nonetheless – are no different. They love the banter.

Just look at the timing of Mike Dean’s banter, here. The Manchester derby. Old Trafford. Guardiola vs Mourinho. It’s peak banter time.

Wait for the cameras, wait for the cameras, wait for the cameras… nailed it.

Andre Marriner is also more than happy to get in on the act, absolutely crushing Sadio Mane for a second back in 2016.


The banter is all well and good, but the celebrity ref is not going to fall into the trap of the supply teacher who just wants to look cool but ultimately ends the lesson crying and locked out of his own classroom after telling his students how much he loves The Rolling Stone Roses.

You Do Not F*ck With A Celebrity Ref.


Celebrity refs could have been professional footballers. But footballers are morally corrupt, constantly trying to bend the rules, looking to gain an advantage, solely concerned with winning.

Such traits are anathema to the celebrity ref. They’re there to adhere to the rules and enforce them – at least, in Clattenburg’s case, when they feel like it.

But that doesn’t stop them reminding us that they’ve still got it.


As Clattenburg has proved this week, the celebrity ref is not afraid of scandal. This is far from the first time he has made headlines, however.

It is worth remembering his finest hour, when he was dropped from officiating in the Premier League in 2014 after breaking two key regulations of the referee protocol – to get to an Ed Sheeran concert on time.

Despite rules requiring officials to travel to and from games together, Clatts quickly scarpered on his own after taking charge of West Brom vs Crystal Palace. He was also found to have spoken on the phone to Palace boss Neil Warnock about the match’s key incidents.

We’re not sure what sounds worse: going to see Ed Sheeran or chatting with Neil Warnock?


The celebrity ref is, of course, the star of the show, but football is a team game, and the celebrity ref needs the help of his Z-list officials.

While they could just wish each other luck in the changing rooms, often they feel the need to make a public show of solidarity.


The celebrity ref, just like us all, will make mistakes. Even their gaffes, however, will be glorious, and will only make them stronger.

Graham Poll managed to book a player three times in a televised World Cup match before sending him off, and yet still manages to have a column in a national newspaper in which he lectures about the laws of the game.


Ah, of course.

Jeff Winter wrote in his autobiography Who’s The B*stard In The Black? – answer: you, Jeff – that he refused to blow for full-time in his final match as a Premier League referee until the ball was near the Kop at Anfield.

“The fans behind the goal burst into spontaneous applause. It was longer and louder than normal, even for a home win,” Winter wrote. “Did they know it was my final visit? Was it applause for me? They are such knowledgeable football people it would not surprise me.”

It would not surprise you, Jeff, for you are a celebrity referee.

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