England's top referee, MARK CLATTENBURG from County Durham is just 41 years old and already taken charge of the 2012 Olympic Final, the 2014 Champions League Final, the 2014 European Nations Final, and an FA CUP FINAL... you only get the honour once, and was about to depart for The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a lucrative 500,000 pound tax free salary to oversee their league officiating, and do a few chores in the middle. He was evidently offered twice that amount to work in China.
It's the only country named after a ruling family for life, the House of Saud, with its brutal and restrictive political and social system.Mark is a member of the PGMOL Professional Game Match Officials Ltd who assign referees at the top level since it was founded in 2001. General Manager Mike Riley has upset many of them but evidently he sat down with Mark, who will be assigned a Premier League game this coming weekend between West Brom abd Bournemouth at The Hawthorns, and not take up his Saudi post until post season. PGMOL trains and develops about 109 referees and many more assistants, and has a staff of eleven. PROZONE continually monitors at matches and with fortnightly meetings at which their performances are evaluated. The most high profile officials are the 18 full time proffesional select group.
Howard Webb, who refereed the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final in Soccer City, near Johannesburg, South Africa has been working for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation but is due to take up a new post with MLS..Major League Soccer in USA shortly.
Last week I wrote about RUSSIA'S HOOLIGAN ARMY but after a sentence or two it was mistakenly sent out..more than once. I was referring to a recent BBC TV programme presented by the very brave Stockley von Statzer about Vasily the Killer and other Russian thugs who were in Marseilles to beat up and injure a much larger group of England fans in the port of Marseilles during EURO 2016. It was about 200 v 2,000 and they carried their own video cameras. Hundreds were injured and a couple critically. Von Statzers film crew went to Moscow and various other cities to film these thugs training in gymnasiums and having fights in the forest with rival groups.
The Russian Football Federation has been clamping down on violence in and around stadiums and fighting and disorder is fewer and far between, but you still have racial chanting, which is not confined to Russia, Serbian football has a big problem. We got to meet the OREL BUTCHERS in Oryol and and others in Rostov on Don, one of the FIFA 2018 venues, with a forest outside the newly constructed stadium, and an ideal place for a mass brawl. A bunch of young scumbags are hoping to impress the leaders and earn a tattoo for becoming full members. They are driven into a forest to fight with another rival hooligan gang. Intense television.
A few months ago I was at a travel show in London and met with tourist authorities from Moscow, St Petersburg and Kazan to learn more about visiting in 2017 and 2018. Those three cities plus Sochi will host the 8 team CONFEDERATIONS CUP this summer and a 'dry run' for the 32 team 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP in 12 stadiums in 11 cities. Evidently it will be 'visa free' if you have a match ticket, but don't rely on my word. It is over half a century ago that I was last in the old Soviet Union and taking the TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY and eventuallu a two and a half day cruise from Nahodka to Yokahama for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Last September I took a cheap flight to Tivat, Montenegro and after a couple of days in this gorgeous location by bus to Podgorica, capital of Montenegro, a small country of about 600,000. I was a welcomed guest at Montenegro v Kazakhstan FIFA 2018 match before going south to Albania. A few weeks later, on the eve of a national election the then Prime Minister was planning to be assasinated by pro Moscow thugs who were to be dressed in Montenegro police uniforms and to fire on locals.
Fortunately the plot was discovered within a day or so of the election. Two men are in custody and two ringleaders are on the run and probably in Russia. Montenegro is pro western and is expected to join NATO in the near future,, something that Moscow does not want to happen.