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Premier League could lose top referee as official approached for huge new job



MICHAEL OLIVER has been approached by Saudi Arabia to gauge his interest in quitting the Premier League.

And SunSport understands England’s top referee would be open to a lucrative switch to the Gulf State.

Saudi aim to recruit European officials between now and the end of this season with Oliver one of their top targets because many clubs do not trust local referees.

The Northumberland whistler, 38, was in the Middle East this week, officiating the biggest match in the United Arab Emirates Pro League on Thursday between Sharjah and Al Ain after PGMOL boss Howard Webb and the Prem approved the invite.

Prem referees are able to officiate matches overseas as a one-off arrangement with Oliver in charge of Al Ain’s 3-2 win rather than any of the midweek Carabao Cup third-round games.


Oliver, who was joined by assistants Stuart Burt and Dan Cook with Darren England as VAR, returned from the three-day trip in Dubai to Newcastle on Friday.

He has been appointed as fourth official for Tottenham’s home clash with Liverpool and will also be the VAR when Nottingham Forest host Brentford at the City Ground tomorrow.

Saudi have spent eye-watering money as ex-Prem players Jordan Henderson, N’Golo Kante and Ruben Neves among others made the move last summer.

The transfer spending by the Pro League in the last window was second only to the Prem with more than £800million splashed out.

Prem refs earn between £120,000 and £300,000 a year but salaries in Saudi would be lucrative compared to what the top-flight can offer.

Top officials are becoming increasingly frustrated with Jonathan Moss, who became the new manager of the Select Group One in the summer of 2022, and that discontent could lead to elite referees moving elsewhere.

Oliver, who has had previous interest from the MLS in America as reported by SunSport, is a Fifa official which allows him to referee international matches as well as European club fixtures including the Champions League.


But if the initial interest turns into a concrete deal, Oliver would have to weigh up if it is worth giving up his badge.

Saudi could nominate him to regain his Fifa badge, allowing him to officiate international matches again and that could be a condition of any move.

PGMOL, the English referees’ body, said in a statement last week: “Any interest in our officials from other leagues demonstrates the strong reputation of English officials across the globe.”

Source: The Sun

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