According to Wednesday’s Svenska Dagbladet, the number of local league referees has dropped by half in Sweden. Meanwhile, recruitment drives are failing in their attempts to lure more men in black to the game.
And it all comes in the wake of the decision by Swedish referee Anders Frisk to quit the game after being subjected to death threats.
Referee instructor Bengt Augustsson from the Swedish Football Association told SvD that the situation has significantly worsened over the last year.
“Nowadays to win is the only thing that matters and I mean that on all levels,” he said. “Before there was an element of fun, especially in youth football and the lower leagues. Sport is a mirror image of society and we have a problem with public order.”
When referee Anders Frisk stepped onto the world football stage in the 90s he became a household name in Sweden.
“Back then we used his picture on folders which were handed out in schools,” said Augustsson. “And many youngsters got in touch in the hope that they could be the next famous Swedish referee.”
Augustsson now fears that the well publicised events surrounding Frisk’s early retirement will only add to the problem.
Last week, Sweden’s most famous referee announced he was to quit the game with immediate effect. After refereeing a Champions League match between Chelsea and Barcelona, Chelsea boss José Mourinho severely criticised Frisk for chatting to his opposite number at half time.
A barrage of death threats against Frisk and his family followed.
“There have been telephone threats, threats via email and the post too. I decided that no one else but me can empty the post box,” said Frisk.
Frisk confirmed that some of the threats had come from England as well as other European countries, including Sweden.
In an interview in DN he said, “I have had enough. I don’t know if I even dare take my kids to the post office.”
According to Göteborgs-Posten he stands by his decision and won’t be making a comeback.
GP spoke to eleven Swedish Premier League (Allsvenskan) referees, six of whom admitted they had received serious threats from so-called football fans.