Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Engineer is offered police protection after hate campaign

AFP , LONDON

English referee Howard Webb gestures to the players during the Euro 2008 Group B match between Austria and Poland at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

A man who shares a name with and lives in the same town as the British referee who awarded a controversial injury-time penalty in Euro 2008 has received death threats, newspapers said yesterday.

The Times and the Daily Telegraph both said that Howard Webb, a 62-year-old engineer from Rotherham, England, has been offered police protection after a hate campaign by some incensed, but mistaken, Polish fans.

Webb’s namesake, who is half his age, gave a penalty against Poland when they were just seconds away from winning their Group B match against co-hosts Austria on Thursday, letting the Austrians pull off a 1-1 draw which severely dented Polish hopes of making the last eight.

Even Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was livid at the decision, admitting he wanted to “kill” the bald-headed English Premier League referee for depriving coach Leo Beenhakker’s team of a vital win.

The newspapers said the elder Webb received a number of threatening telephone calls, partly in Polish and English, while his work e-mail account at Rotherham council had to be shut down because it was inundated with hate mail.

Images of a mutilated referee have appeared on the Internet, the newspapers reported. One had a knife in his head, another showed Webb in the cross-hairs of a rifle, while a third offered a reward for him “dead or alive.”

Local police have offered the elder Webb — who works on traffic signals and street lighting — protection and advised others with the same name on safety tips, they said.

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