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Former English soccer referee says job pressure could lead to suicide

September 16, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey says games officials need help in dealing with the enormous pressure they face.
Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey says games officials need help… (Lindsey Parnaby / AFP/Getty…)

Talk about a red card.

Maybe this is more of a red flag. But former Premier League official Mark Halsey says soccer has gotten so big in England he believes the pressure on game officials could soon lead a referee to commit suicide.

"It will not be long before a referee has a nervous breakdown," he says. "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, who retired last season, has written an autobiography about his experiences. "Added Time," is being serialized by The London Sun newspaper.

Halsey was the victim of abusive tweets last year after officiating Manchester United's 2-1 win over Liverpool. In that match, he ejected Liverpool's midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and awarded United a penalty kick, which Robin van Persie converted.

The tweets, both of which referred to Halsey's bout with throat cancer in 2009, were widely condemned by other Twitter users. And even though Halsey says he received support from Premier League managers and friends, his former bosses were a lot less helpful, adding to the stress.

"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 write.

"I do feel that referees should get more help to cope with the increasing level of mental strain."

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