Norwegian referee smuggled out of UK after death threats
Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø was today smuggled out of Britain by police who feared for his safety because of his role in Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona.
Øvrebø turned down four strong penalty appeals by Chelsea, who lost the semi-final on the away goals rule after Andres Iniesta scored in the 93rd-minute of the second leg to level the scores at 1-1 on the night and on aggregate. At the end of the game, Øvrebø was confronted by a furious Didier Drogba and had to be escorted down the tunnel by a group of Chelsea stewards who had difficulty restraining the striker.
Fearing reprisals from furious fans, police changed Øvrebø’s hotel before organising his exit from the country, according to former international referee Graham Poll. Poll, now a media pundit, revealed: “This morning he’s being smuggled out of our country under police escort – this is a referee of a football match. That is a disgrace. “When he booked in a hotel they had to change the hotel he was staying at because of the fear that maybe fans would find him.”
Øvrebø’s situation has worrying echoes of the hounding of Swedish referee Anders Frisk, who retired from the game in 2005 after receiving death threats in the wake of another ill-tempered meeting between Chelsea and Barcelona. Frisk had sent Drogba off in the first-leg of a second round match and was accused by Chelsea’s then-boss Jose Mourinho of having invited Frank Rijkaard, the Barca coach at the time, into his room at half-time.