LONDON (AP) — Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey fears officials could commit suicide as a result of the pressures related to the job.
Halsey wrote in his autobiography, which has been serialized by The Sun newspaper, that his former colleagues should receive more help to cope with the stress of the Premier League and increased media scrutiny.
"It will not be long before a referee has a nervous breakdown," said Halsey, who retired at the end of last season. "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."
Halsey set out his argument by recalling the case of Bundesliga referee Babak Rafati, who had been found with his writs slit in the bath of an hotel room before he underwent treatment for depression, Halsey added that because of the increased social and mass media attention, referees need to be mentally tough both on and off the field.
"With the referees coming through younger and younger, I do fear that they could suffer from burn-out," he said. Halsey was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2009 but returned to refereeing in March 2010. He was abused on Twitter by football fans last season after officiating a 2-1 win for Manchester United against Liverpool. During that game, he sent off Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and awarded United a late penalty converted by Robin van Persie. The abusive tweets referred to his treatment for cancer.
Halsey said he received support from managers and colleagues at the time but felt the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, a group formed in 2001 to improve refereeing standards, could have been more helpful.
"I got little support from my bosses apart from a call from Mike Riley, the head of the PGMOL, and one from the Select Group manager Keren Barratt asking if I wanted to come off my next game at Southampton," Halsey said.