The climate may have been very different from what they are used to, but Mark Clattenburg said the Saudi Arabian officials enjoyed taking charge of Coleraine’s game against Warrenpoint Town on Saturday.
Speaking after the game Clattenburg, who is now is now Head of Refereeing for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, thanked the Irish FA for giving the officials the opportunity to take charge of the Danske Bank Premiership clash.
“It’s great to be here and I would like to thank the Irish Football Association for allowing the referees to pass on different experiences,” he said.
“Northern Irish referees come over to Saudi Arabia and do such a great job, so it’s great to have the same exchange back for our referees, who officiate in the top league in Saudi Arabia, get the chance to come here and experience a different culture.
“From the pitches, to the style of play to the physicality, it’s great for them to learn and develop and hopefully become future top referees.
“They really enjoyed it, and what is great is they didn’t affect the match. One of the ultimate things as a referee is that you don’t want to affect the match.
What I did enjoy about today is he adapted to the conditions and allowed the game to be a physical contestMark Clattenburg
“What I did enjoy about today is he adapted to the conditions and allowed the game to be a physical contest.
“Yes there will always be small mistakes. I don’t think a ref will ever come off a pitch fully satisfied.
“The main thing is he didn’t come off the pitch having got a big decision wrong.”
Both managers though were less convinced following the game which Coleraine won 1-0.
“Having the officials over was not ideal in my opinion, and I wasn’t happy when I heard about it,” said Bannsiders boss Oran Kearney.
“I’m not being disrespectful but there was probably two or three other games in the division today which weren’t as significant as our game or Crusaders game today.
“Why pick us for an experiment? How did we get chosen?
“You just don’t know what’s coming. There was three or four decisions for both sides you would query.
“The referee hasn’t aided either side, but it just hasn’t been an ideal scenario on a stressful enough day on a bobbly pitch, it was the last thing we needed.
“I’m glad it hasn’t cost us with a debatable red card or penalty.
“It’s great experience for them and I don’t begrudge that element of it, but with the magnitude of this game I don’t know why it was us.”
‘Point boss Matthew Tipton also queried why another of their games was chosen for the referee exchange.
“They came over and fair play, but we seem to get them all the time,” he said.
“My question is how come they always choose Warrenpoint games to have trials?
“We had Latvians earlier on in the season, we had someone I think from Macedonia and now we’ve had people from Saudi Arabia. Why are they choosing my games?
“I’m not saying they done anything wrong. They make more decisions than players do, so I’m never too critical about referees, I just want to know why?”