In a bizarre rant on talkSPORT Breakfast, Mark Clattenburg claimed female referees must choose between having children or working in men’s football.
The former Premier League referee was interviewed this morning by Alan Brazil, Ally McCoist and England rugby player Joe Marler.
During the discussion, Marler mentioned Sara Cox, who became the first woman to referee a Premiership Rugby match earlier this month.
He asked Clattenburg if he thought there could be a female referee in the Premier League.
"We’ve always had an assistant referee in the Premier League, Sian Massey, we've now got a woman referee in the Football League, Rebecca Welsh," Clattenburg responded.
"So, women are starting to develop in the men's game. If you look at UEFA, a French woman refereed the Super Cup final. So, UEFA are getting more and more women.
"The problem with women is, and certainly in refereeing, certainly in football, they have a difficult path where, if they get pregnant during their refereeing career, it can stop them a long way.
"They’ve got to make this choice – do they want to be pregnant and have children, or do they want to be referees."
Clattenburg continued: "They’ve also got to pass the men’s fitness test. A lot of women struggle with the men's fitness test. If you want to be in the men's game, you have to meet that criteria.
"So, if they pass all this, and they choose the right path, I believe that women should be involved in the men's game, as well as men being involved in the women's game.
"If we look at the Women's Soccer League, for example, there's been some high profile mistakes. Why not bring in the best referees, if you've got the best leagues."
When queried on his views on female referees becoming pregnant, Clattenburg doubled down on his argument.
"You've got a career as well, you have to make sacrifices," he said. "I made some big sacrifices when I was coming up as a referee.
"Women have to make that sacrifice. Say if they get to a certain level in refereeing, and they want to get to that next level. If you become pregnant, it can cost you two or three years of your life. Once you lose that three years, somebody else takes your position, so that they move up.
"If you want to have babies, you've got to do it early in your career. If you start having babies later on in your career, you miss that opportunity and it's sad because there's some great women…"
Clattenburg later clarified his comments on women with children struggling with the Premier League’s fitness test.
"Certainly when you've had a baby, you're out nine to 10 months, then you'll take another six months to recover from your body, so therefore it's nearly two years," he said. "To pass that men's fitness test is very, very demanding."
Clattenburg, a former Premier League and FIFA referee, has officiated a number of notable matches, including the 2016 Champions League Final and the Euro 2016 Final.
He left the Premier League in 2017 to take up a role in Saudi Arabia, before moving on to become a professional referee in China.News Now - Sport News