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Former referee Mark Halsey fears suicide among colleagues

Sep 17, 2013, 1:00 PM EST

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Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey believes the pressure on top-flight officials could lead to one of them committing suicide.

The revelation comes from Halsey’s autobiography Added Time, which is being serialised by The Sun.

Halsey believes that more needs to be done in terms of protecting referees from fan abuse, which has increased considerably as a result of social media outlets such as Twitter.

“There is no hiding place on the field and you have to be mentally tough. But it also follows you off the field more and more now and it can destroy you,” Halsey writes.

“I do feel that referees should get more help to cope with the increasing level of mental strain. . . . In my view, given some of the episodes of recent seasons, it will not be long before a referee has a nervous breakdown. . . . I also believe that if we do not do something to help referees with mental health and stress issues, then we could see a suicide.”

Professional referees committing suicide is not a new issue in professional football. In November 2011, Bundesliga referee Babak Rafati was reported to have tried to commit suicide before the kickoff of a match between Cologne and Mainz.

Fortunately, Rafati was found and treated. Speaking on the incident, German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger said: “The pressure in professional sports is unbelievably high. We just don’t manage to bring the right balance into it. No-one should be in such a hopeless situation.”

Two years later and Halsey’s remarks come as a stark reminder of the pressure that professional referees face on a daily basis.

  1. talgrath - Sep 17, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    There really is no reason to harass a ref when they’re off the pitch, perhaps FIFA should focus more on preventing that to help referees?

  2. geojock - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    On a somewhat side note.. I know the purist are going to hate me on this, but I really think its time the major leagues should begin to look in to 2 on the field officials. It would take some time to adjust, but i think there would be lots of benefits. Look at the number of officials in all other major sports.

    • bishopofblunder - Sep 17, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      I agree. It would help a great deal with positioning to see fouls (and dives) better. It would also help with catching shenanigans behind the play. The game is played at a much faster pace than it used to be. It is near impossible for one man to keep up and be in the right position. Ice hockey went to two referees and look how much of a smaller space they have to cover.

  3. braxtonrob - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    That’s what Side Judges are for.

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