07 May 2009

Police worried for ref Ovrebo

May 7, 2009  ESPN

Controversial referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was understood to have been smuggled out of the country by police after receiving a number of death threats.

Ovrebo has become the target of a hate campaign after failing to award Chelsea a penalty during their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

The Norwegian official turned down four penalty appeals - two for clear handball - and Chelsea crashed out of the competition when Andres Iniesta scored a 93rd-minute away goal.

Chelsea had been minutes away from a repeat of last year's final against Manchester United when Iniesta struck.

But his strike cancelled out Michael Essien's ninth-minute opener and wrecked Chelsea's dreams of appearing in the final in Rome at the end of May.

After the game, Ovrebo was barracked by the Chelsea players, including Didier Drogba andMichael Ballack and he was escorted to the tunnel by Chelsea stewards.

Police were said to be so concerned about his safety that they changed his hotel before organising his secret exit from Britain.

Police in Ovrebo's home city of Oslo said they were investigating threats made on the internet.

An Oslo police spokesman said: ''We are watching closely what is being posted on the internet. Anything we believe would threaten his personal safety will be taken seriously.''

Former international referee Graham Poll said: ''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.''

The campaign against Ovrebo has echoes of the case of Anders Frisk. He faced a hate campaign after refereeing another game between the two clubs.

Chelsea's coach at the time, Jose Mourinho, accused the official of ''adulterating'' the outcome of a match. Frisk eventually quit the game.

Ovrebo, 42, works as a psychologist outside football. In Euro 2008 the Italian Football Federation demanded an apology from UEFA after he incorrectly ruled out a goal by Luca Toniin Italy's match against Romania Afterwards, Ovrebo admitted he had made a mistake and was not assigned any more tournament matches.