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Abuse in football: ‘One day in this country, a referee will be killed’

Mike Dean receives death threats and black players are racially abused on social media

The head of the Referees’ Association in England has warned that the abuse levels in football could one day lead to the death of an official. 

After being involved in two controversial red cards last week, referee Mike Dean and his family received death threats on social media. Dean will now not take charge of a Premier League match this weekend after his request to stand down was granted, Sky Sports reports.

Paul Field, chair of the Referees’ Association, said: “Mike Dean’s a victim. He has to look after his family and his own emotional welfare. 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.”

West Ham’s Tomas Soucek and Southampton’s Jan Bednarek were sent off by Dean in recent games. However, both red cards were overturned following appeals. 

Soucek tweeted his support for Dean after the official was threatened. “Whatever decisions are made on the pitch should stay on the pitch,” said the Czech midfielder. “I don’t like hearing about it interfering with personal life and I send Mike Dean and his family my support. There is no place for abuse of any kind. It is in the past and I’m now focused on the rest of the season.”

Players racially abused 

It’s not just referees who are being targeted online, but also players. In the past few weeks there have been a number of cases where black players have been racially abused following fixtures.

Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe was racially abused for the second time in ten days after the 3-3 draw with Everton. And Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger said he suffered “immense” racist abuse after the club sacked Frank Lampard. Man Utd women’s striker Lauren James, 19, also revealed she had been sent racist abuse on Instagram, the BBC reports. 

In response to the abuse and claims that he played a part in Lampard’s sacking, Rudiger said: “My conscience is clear. I know I did not do all that nonsense. I am open for every new coach, as I was open also for Mr Lampard. 

“I cannot control people’s emotions but people should be human beings. I didn’t post anything but the racial abuse was immense. This makes me stronger because I know who I am and I can look in the mirror and smile. Of course if hurts but, in this case, I just block it out because I know I didn’t do anything.”

Enough is enough 

The English Football Association (FA) has urged the government and social media companies to act on the online racist and threatening abuse, Sky Sports reports. 

In a statement the FA said: “It has been yet another weekend where players are facing discriminatory abuse and having to deal with anonymous keyboard warriors who hide in a world of impunity. At the FA, we believe that enough is enough.

“We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real-life consequences.

“Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.”

Twitter and Facebook, which owns Instagram, both say they are committed to eradicating abuse, the BBC said. However, Goal reports that the government is ready to “get tough” on social media companies over online abuse and is threatening to hand out fines that could reach “billions of pounds”. 

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