In his pomp, Mark Clattenburg was widely regarded as England’s top official, and it was no wonder that he was awarded the 2016 Champions League and European Championship finals to officiate.
There was no one better qualified in the Premier League to oversee a fixture, and so it came as a surprise when the man in black decided he’d had enough.
Before the introduction of VAR, Clattenburg’s decision making was often spot on, and for the most part he was well respected by players and managers alike.
However, the former official has now opened up on just what a terrible and stressful job it became.
“I left the Premier League three years ago and I still get abuse all the time – during lockdown they were showing old games and it recirculated a lot of abuse,” he told the BBC, cited by the Daily Mirror.
“When social media started to come in halfway through my career I didn’t have any accounts so I didn’t read it but it’s always there. Some referees read it and it’s hard to manage it.
“Referees are the most hated species in football, people vent their anger at them. It’s a thankless job. That’s a society issue as well, keyboard warriors who are faceless and can constantly abuse you. Some people find that hard to deal with. Nobody likes negativity.
“You make decisions in a split second and most of the time you are correct. If you get them wrong you are going to get death threats and social media abuse. These things go on in your head before you make those decisions.
“I did the Champions League final and the Euros final and I can’t remember anything about them, I didn’t enjoy them and that’s sad now I’ve retired.
“I just wanted to start the match and I wanted it to end. I was panicking about making a mistake. When it’s watched by billions of people around the world there’s no escape.
“I used to have nightmares on nights before games about making a mistake, missing a flight, there was so much anxiety.
“We get support, but it’s an isolated industry – you are on your own a lot. Some of the journeys home from games were really tough if you had a performance that people didn’t accept.”
With hardly any referees coming through from grass roots level upwards these days, is it any wonder that most fall out of love with the game in any event when you hear that even the best that England have ever had with the whistle is treated as such.