Mark Clattenburg is quitting his job as a Premier League official to become Saudi Arabia’s new head of referees.
The 41-year-old is widely considered to be one of the best referees in football and took charge of the Euro 2016 final, the Champions League final and the FA Cup final last season.
Howard Webb, another former top-flight official, resigned as Saudi Arabia’s head of refereeing 11 days ago.
Clattenburg is expected to leave before the next Premier League fixtures.
His new post will involve working with Saudi referees to improve performance and professionalise the set-up, while he will also take charge of some league games. He has signed a one-year rolling contract.
Speaking on a live broadcast on the Saudi Football Federation’s Twitter page, Clattenburg said: “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.”
The Premier League’s referee body, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) said he had been “a great asset” and “an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing”.
Its statement added: “We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark, and it further underlines the high esteem for English match officials throughout the world game.”
Clattenburg took charge of his first Football League game as a 25-year-old in 2000. Four years later, he was promoted to the Premier League’s Select Group.
Unusually for a match official, public attention has often been drawn to his life off the pitch.
In 2008, Clattenburg was suspended following an investigation into allegations he owed £60,000 as a result of a failed business venture, and he later had his elite referee status revoked.
However, at an appeal in February 2009, his punishment was reduced to an eight-month suspension, backdated to August 2008.
In October 2014, he was dropped from officiating for two breaches of protocol – speaking on the phone with then-Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock, before leaving a ground alone to drive to an Ed Sheeran concert.
PGMOL says officials must travel to and from the ground together for integrity and security.
And last summer he got two tattoos to commemorate refereeing the Euro 2016 and Champions League finals, and the Guardian reported he had a car with the registration plate: ‘C19TTS’.
In an interview with Associated Press in December, he said he did not understand why “people see (the tattoos) as a negative thing”, adding: “I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
One other incident Clattenburg cannot forget in a hurry is the racism allegation leveled against him by Nigeria former Chelsea stalwart, John Mikel Obi.
Early this year, Clattenburg opened up in a rare interview revealing that he considered giving up on refereeing over the row “with respect to racism” with Mikel.
Clattenburg was investigated after it was claimed that he made a racist remark towards Mikel in 2012.
While the Premier League official was accused of saying “shut up you monkey” to the Super Eagles’ captain, the FA accepted the player had believed the referee had racially abused him – but Clattenburg was found to have no case to answer.
But the whole incident, which Chelsea refused to apologise for, certainly took its toll on the referee who was named the Referee of the Year in January.
Mikel was subsequently given a three-match ban and fined £60,000 by the FA for threatening behaviour.