A referee’s life will be lost if harsher punishments are not introduced for the abuse of officials, says Referees’ Association chair Paul Field, after Mike Dean received death threats.
Dean will not referee a game in the Premier League this weekend after his request to stand down was granted.
The 52-year-old and his family received death threats on social media after Dean had been involved in two controversial incidents last week.
The abuse followed two controversial red card decisions – against West Ham’s Tomas Soucek and Southampton’s Jan Bednarek – which were subsequently overturned following appeal.
Field says the warning signs are there and is concerned that if the abuse continues without any action taken against the perpetrators, it could severely impact the mental health of referees.
“Mike Dean’s a victim. He has to look after his family and his own emotional welfare”, said Field.
“It is totally unacceptable and one day in this country, a referee will be killed.
“I have warned the authorities about this, I have warned the government that this is coming – one day, we will be having a conversation when a match official has lost their life.
“Football is a reflection of society. We can’t cure all the ills of society through football and education, but I think if the deterrents were made significantly stronger, then people would stop and think.
“It’s that stop and pause process before you act.”
Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey has told Sky Sports News he also suffered death threats during his career and revealed how it adversely impacted on his and his family’s mental health.
“I know exactly what Mike and his family are going through and my heart goes out to them,” said Halsey.
“He is a very experienced referee and a very good referee with over 500 games and he’s just doing the job to the best of his ability, just like everybody else does.
“It came to a point where I thought, ‘do me and my family really need this? Is it time to just pack this in?’ Life is more important. It really affected me, it really got to me. It hurt my wife. She was crying almost continuously at home.
“I had to take screenshots of what was sent to us to give on to Greater Manchester Police to deal with the matter. The first wave of abuse I got, with people sending me death threats, the police dealt with and a couple of people faced the police and got sorted.
“Sometimes you go out, and you look over your shoulder, and you think, ‘everybody knows what’s happened to you’. And it really does affect you mentally, and it just makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.”