Mark Clattenburg slammed for 'lazy' comments on female referees and pregnancy

Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has been criticised for his "lazy" and "disrespectful" comments on female referees needing to choose between pregnancy and working in men’s football

Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has been criticised for his “lazy” and “disrespectful” comments on female referees needing to choose between having children and working in men’s football.

Clattenburg made the comments on talkSPORT Breakfast yesterday during an interview with hosts Alan Brazil and 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 whether there could be a female referee in the Premier League.

Clattenburg’s answers have been widely criticised. The 46-year-old responded: “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.”

When asked to clarify his comments, Clattenburg doubled down on his argument.

“Women have to make that sacrifice,” he said. “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…”

Marler did not respond to Clattenburg’s comments on air, but later took to Twitter to condemn his words.

“Jesus Christ – Clattenburg’s response to my question about female referees in football on talkSPORT this morning was disrespectful and archaic – Sara Cox leading the way with the way the world should be.”

TalkSPORT’s female presenters were also outraged, with Natalia Sawyer writing: “He referred to it as a ‘problem’. It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge for women. Of course it’s not easy, you have to take time off work and get back to fitness in any walk of life.

“Many athletes in sport have come back from having a baby. Serena Williams is one of the greatest ever tennis players. Alex Morgan played for Tottenham after having a baby. She’s now back out in America playing.

“There are plenty who have got back to that fitness level to be the sports star they want to be.

“You can certainly get your fitness levels back.”

England correspondent Faye Curruthers tweeted: “Wow Mark Clattenburg, what era are you living in?!!!

“‘Pregnancy costs you 2/3 years of your life’. This is exactly the type of ridiculous statement that has held us all back for so long and made many of us fearful of getting pregnant.”

Women in Football chief executive Jane Purdon also issued a lengthy statement on Clattenburg’s comments, writing: “Mark Clattenburg enjoyed a successful career as a match official but his judgement is way off when it comes to women referees and pregnancy.

“Mark says ‘the problem with women’ is having to choose between carrying a child and their refereeing career, and that being pregnant ‘can cost you two or three years of your life’.

“Women in all professions face challenges in balancing work and family. So do many men – but for men this is never seen as a problem, and men are never expected to choose between the two.

“In fact, many women in elite sport are in a position to resume their sporting careers quickly after giving birth. Others take more time out – by choice or by necessity. Neither of these scenarios is a ‘problem’.

“The real problem is assumptions about female biology, and gender roles in childcare, which are lazy, outdated or plain false.”

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