Position vacant: applicant must have thick skin

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is a thankless job, subject to harassment, intimidation and insults - and that's just on the field. But now, for the second time in less than a year, one of the world's top football referees has received death threats from English football fans.

It is a thankless job, subject to harassment, intimidation and insults - and that's just on the field. But now, for the second time in less than a year, one of the world's top football referees has received death threats from English football fans.

Anders Frisk, who officiated at the Chelsea-Barcelona clash last month, decided to retire rather than subject his family to danger, a decision that has highlighted the immense pressure on top-flight referees in a sport that is becoming more intense and confrontational. Frisk, 42, who is Swedish, announced on Saturday that he was retiring from 27 years of refereeing football after getting death threats from Chelsea fans.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, said referees were among a group of workers, such as police officers, traffic wardens, teachers and tax inspectors, who attract criticism.

Attacks on referees were part of the wider picture of lack of respect for figures of authority. "Referees are like police officers and teachers, whose authority is being undermined in society and whose decisions are questioned in a way that never existed perhaps 20 or 30 years ago," he said.

Frisk angered Chelsea fans by sending off the striker Didier Drogba and was accused by the team coach, Jose Mourinho, of meeting the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, in his dressing room at half-time. Frisk said that he was "too scared" to go out on a football pitch again, adding: "I have been subjected to things that I could not even imagine. Unfortunately, that is the way football looks in 2005." Threats to his life and to his family were made by telephone, e-mail and post, he said.

The affair echoes the treatment meted out to Urs Meier who disallowed a goal by Sol Campbell during England's match with Portugal in the Euro 2004. Meier, who has also retired, was given police protection and went into hiding after receiving numerous death threats from English fans. He said Frisk's decision was "understandable".

Referees' associations have accused Mourinho of fomenting trouble. The incidents are expected to be investigated by Swedish police, who will talk with their British counterparts, who have an extensive database on hooligans thought likely to have made such threats.

FIVE OTHER THANKLESS JOBS

TAX COLLECTORS

They try to be friendly, with those ads reminding you to get your return in, but we all know the real taxman was epitomised by Lennon and McCartney in "Taxman": "If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat; if you take a walk, I'll tax your feet." So, who's going to collect the money to pay for all the schools and hospitals?

WHITE VAN MEN

What is it about these people, with their Daily Star, tatty A-Z and fag packets on the dashboard, that forces them to take up parking spaces and block your drive. Of course, when it's your box of organic veggies, that's another matter.

TICKET INSPECTORS

They patrol our trains and buses, knocking on toilet cubicles and rousing the sleepy and drunk, to remind them to pay. Turning up the volume on the iPod and closing your eyes won't make them go away. Will only disappear when the Government decrees all transport is free.

TRAFFIC WARDENS

Probably the result of a hideous cloning experiment, these grotesque specimens can be relied on to grin as they intone: "It's too late, I've started writing the ticket..." A total saint, of course, when their very presence frees up a parking space for you.

COLD CALLERS

Few would argue that the person who calls at an inconvenient time, affects an overly friendly tone and then tries to persuade you to change your electricity supplier, is doing anything of worth to society. Unless you need some new insurance...

Comments