Earlier this month football fans were treated to back-to-back blockbuster matches to start the week. On Monday, Premier League title chasers Tottenham Hotspur saw their title quest ended in a rowdy 2-2 draw against local rivals Chelsea. The next day, Atlético Madrid lost to Bayern Munich 2-1 but advanced to the Champions League final via an away goal. Here's what you need to know: The man in charge of that rough match was Mark Clattenburg.
The game finished with 12 yellow cards awarded, nine of which went to Spurs, and somehow no red cards. Spurs midfielder Mousa Dembélé also escaped punishment for an eye gouge against Chelsea striker Diego Costa but was suspended six matches by the English FA after the game. Anyone who watched the game will also tell you that Eric Dier, Erik Lamela, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker could easily have seen reds for Spurs. Most baffling of all, Clattenburg waited until the 27th minute to book anyone. And by that time the man he did book, Spurs right back Kyle Walker, had already gotten off for a hard challenge and kick out a few minutes before.
Is Clattenburg known for leniency?
Surprisingly, given his performance a few weeks ago, the stats say that Clattenburg is one of the stricter referees in England. He gave 3.24 yellow cards per game this season, fifth-most amongst Premier League referees. More notably, he gave .14 red cards per game, a number only topped by long-time official Mike Dean and relative newcomer Robert Madley, who only refereed his first Premier League match in April 2013. When he refereed the first leg of Atlético's semi-final clash with Bayern, he gave out five yellow cards, only one of which went to Atleti.
That said, Clattenburg has attracted his fair share of controversy over the years. Earlier this season he was "rested" for a weekend after a horrible penalty call given in a match between Tottenham and Manchester City. A Spurs cross hit Raheem Sterling on the edge of the area in the back, but Clattenburg ruled it a hand ball and gave Spurs a penalty.
The Englishman also has been the center of attention due to allegedly making inappropriate remarks to players during matches. In each of the two most notable cases, involving Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel and former Southampton attacker Adam Lallana, Clattenburg was cleared by the FA. That said, the most well-known (and bizarre) Clattenburg controversy doesn't involve anything that happened on the field: In 2014 Clattenburg was suspended for one weekend for violating the FA's rule requiring match officials to travel to and from all fixtures together. Clattenburg had driven home from the match by himself. His reason? He was worried about making it to an Ed Sheeran concert in time.
Despite some of these controversies, however, Clattenburg is generally highly thought of in England. He was the youngest Football League referee ever when he began refereeing at that level at age 25 and he became a FIFA referee at age 30. He's also been recognized by a number of former referees and journalists as being one of the best referees in England.
What should fans expect from Clattenburg in the final?
Well, his reputation is for being "firm but fair" and that is probably what is in store for the final on May 28. If good Clattenburg shows up, then there won't be any problems. The game will be tight, but Clattenburg will keep a lid on things and the play should never get too out of control. That said, the Sterling penalty howler from earlier this season, as well as the bizarre handling of the Chelsea-Spurs match several weeks ago, is a good reminder that even elite referees can have bad days. And when Clattenburg does have bad days, he usually ends up making himself the story. Hopefully that won't happen later this month.