Why Premier League Referee Michael Oliver Officiated Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr Vs Al-Hilal Clash


The root cause behind Englishman Michael Oliver’s surprising appearance in Saudi Arabia has been established. 

Oliver traveled to Asia to referee the encounter involving Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr and title contenders Al Hilal on Tuesday. 

And information revealed by The Times, has now shown why Michael Oliver and his team, including Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett and Darren England, were made to officiate the clash. 

The Saudi Arabian Football Association put in a special request for Michael Oliver and his compadre to officiate the game over fears that local referees could buckle under the pressure that such big games bring. 

England’s referee body PGMOL, alongside the English FA, thought about the request and concluded that the experience could be advantageous to Oliver and his team. 

Michael Oliver alongside his refereeing team, Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Hilal's captain
Michael Oliver alongside his refereeing team, Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Hilal’s captain

They believed it would help to increase their experiences and assist the status of English officials outside of England.

This is the first time such an exchange is happening!

It’s the first time an exchange of such has happened since the beginning of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) in 2001.

During the encounter, which ended in Al Hilal being victorious by 2-0 courtesy of a brace from Odion Ighalo, Oliver brandished a yellow card to an angry Cristiano Ronaldo of Al-Nassr after he hauled Gustavo Cellar to the ground. 

Saudi Arabia used this ref loan system as recently as March when Spanish referee Anthony Lahoz flown in to Saudi Arabia to officiate Al Nassr’s encounter with Al Ittihad. 

It can be exercised as many as five times in a single season. 

The venture of the English referees abroad will not affect the team’s role in the Premier League, with several of them involved in matches next weekend. 

Michael Oliver who is a member of the UEFA Elite Group of Referees since 2018 is also penned down to officiate Arsenal’s important meeting with Manchester City next week. 

This information would not be welcomed too happily by Arsenal faithfuls being that, Arsenal have been defeated in 16 matches in which Michael Oliver officiated. 

Michael Oliver showing a red card to Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli
Michael Oliver showing a red card to Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli

Although, the North London side have won all four games that Oliver has officiated this campaign. The English referee has officiated 24 matches in England’s top flight this campaign.

Other English referees who have also had ties with Saudi Arabia apart from Michael Oliver

Before Michael Oliver’s one game appearance in Saudi Arabia, PGMOL head Howard Webb was previously in Saudi Arabia as head of refereeing of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation from 2015 till 2017.

Matt Clattenburg, another former English referee succeeded Howard Webb in 2017 and he spent 18 months reportedly “educating” referees in Saudi Arabia whilst also involved in officiating duties. 

Michael Oliver officiated his first Premier League game in 2010 at the age of 25 years and 182 days, becoming the youngest referee in the history of the English top-flight football league.

How much was Michael Oliver paid?

The 38-year-old based on reports from the Daily Mail was paid around £3000 for his officiating duty in Saudi Arabia and that is more than twice the amount he would normally earn refereeing in the Premier League.


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