Howard Webb flies home to his family, insults ringing in his ears

Two years ago Howard Webb became the most hated man in Poland. This morning he will return to his home in Rotherham having added Holland to his list of no-go nations, following his record-breaking performance as the referee in Sunday's fractious World Cup final.

Mr Webb, who oversaw Spain's victory in an exceptionally ill-tempered match in Johannesburg, sent off one Dutchman and showed 14 yellow cards to acquire international sporting notoriety in the space of two fraught hours.

The final was watched by an estimated global television audience of 750 million people and it was Mr Webb's performance that made the biggest impact. The friendly but firm 38-year-old was even jeered by sections of the 85,000-strong crowd in Soccer City stadium when he was awarded his post-match medal.

In 2008 he awarded a penalty against Poland at the European Championships that resulted in their exit from the tournament and led to the country's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, saying he "wanted to kill" him. Mr Webb received death threats judged serious enough to lead South Yorkshire police to post a guard on his home.

This time the force has no plans to provide any protection, but there has been no shortage of verbal scorn directed his way from Holland and even Spain – the complaints from both perhaps being a sign that he did something right.

One Dutch newspaper described him as a "chump", while his performance was labelled "outrageous" by Marca, Spain's leading sport's newspaper. The Holland players were notably aggrieved, although few could find fault with his decisions against the Dutch – if anything he was reckoned to have been too lenient. A succession of Holland players could have been sent off and probably would have been were it not the World Cup final, as tackle after tackle sent Spaniards tumbling around the pitch, before defender John Heitinga was dismissed in extra time.

Wesley Sneijder, one of Holland's star names, said of Webb: "He has robbed us. This really is a disgrace to football." Dirk Kuyt, who plays for Liverpool in the Premier League where Mr Webb officiates domestically, said: "I know you cannot blame others, but the referee favoured Spain."

But Mr Webb was defended by neutrals and colleagues, who pointed to the brutal Dutch approach to the final. Paul Gallagher, a former Premier League referee, said: "He will never ever, if he lives to be 100, referee a tougher match. I've never seen a referee put under so much pressure. I've never seen a team employ such bully-boy tactics and the way they harangued him at the end was disgraceful. He's been tested to the absolute limit. It's a long, long time since I've seen a referee put under so much pressure. He was in a totally non-win situation."

Sepp Blatter, Fifa's chief executive, blamed the behaviour of the players and said that the officials (the linesmen, Darren Cann from Norfolk and Devon's Mike Mullarkey, were also English) had a "really hard task".

Mr Webb, the first Englishman to take charge of the sport's biggest event since 1974, is on a five-year sabbatical from his job as a police sergeant and is paid around £65,000 per year. He met with Fifa officials in Johannesburg yesterday for the customary debriefing and was expected to fly back to the UK overnight.

On the plane home, he can find comfort in the words of one supporter. His wife, Kay Webb, said last week that "he can't take charge of his own children, I don't know how he manages it on a football pitch." But yesterday she insisted: "I have every confidence in him."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss