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FROM THE MIDDLE: Referees receive unacceptable abuse

Assistant referee or Lineman of football or soccer holding flag

The aftermath of the incident at the West Ham v Fulham match, when Tomas Soucek was sent off by Mike Dean, illustrate something we hear little about. I will leave the incident itself until next week as I think there is one part of it that has been overlooked.

I will concentrate this week; on the abuse and death threats such as were sent to Mike Dean’s family.
We hear a lot about players being abused, sometimes by racist comments, not at the grounds because there are no spectators, but after games, mainly through social media.

This is of course totally unacceptable but we hear little about the abuse of referees, which has a long history. For some reason it has felt acceptable to abuse referees for many years.

One player in the local Reading League when taken to task by the referee for abuse said, ‘If you can’t take it you shouldn’t be refereeing,’ as if that is something referees have to accept. 

Now with the advent of social media, the abusers sign up under assumed names and cannot be traced.

One new Premier League referee, when he checked his social media after his first Premier League game, found messages such as ‘ I hope you get killed in a road crash on your way home’. He doesn’t bother with social media anymore.

Mark Clattenburg’s family were threatened and he still receives hate messages, although he withdrew from the Premier League three years ago. Threats to referees families are not uncommon.

Michael Oliver awarded an obvious penalty in the last minute against Juventus in the Champions League and after being vilified by their goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, sent him off.

Michael’s wife Lucy, who incidentally is a referee herself in the Women’s Super League, immediately got messages on her twitter account such as, ‘go do the dishes, we will kill your husband’ and ‘you have to die’. They moved house.

This cannot continue. The social media companies must devise a method whereby their customers can be identified and those using it for abuse and threats must be prosecuted.

By Dick Sawdon Smith

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