I think they are acting more disgracefully about their exit from Euro2004 than the Italians did when they were ousted from WC2002, if that is possible.
Tabloid campaign forces referee
Edward Holt in Zurich
Wednesday June 30, 2004
Swiss referee Urs Meier has gone into
hiding with police protection after
receiving death threats and hate email
from England fans in a backlash fuelled
by the Sun.
Speaking by telephone from his secret
Swiss address, Mr Meier said he was
shocked by the reaction in the UK
media and from fans to his refereeing of
the England-Portugal game last week -
and he singled out the Sun as being the
Mr Meier, 45, said he had been forced to leave his home in
northern Switzerland after a torrent of media abuse that followed
within hours of him disallowing a goal by Sol Campbell in the
dying minutes of normal time in the game.
Swiss police are now guarding the referee day and night after
advising him to go into hiding following the death threats.
"I am taking these threats very seriously," Mr Meier said, adding
he was sent the offending messages after newspapers published
his email address.
He said: "I'm absolutely shocked by the media campaign
against me and the attacks from the supporters. I always
thought the spirit of fair play was important in England, with
respect for officials. I never expected this reaction.
"I had a wonderful tournament with three fantastic games, and
I'm feeling good about that. But the English newspapers,
especially the Sun, have caused a big problem. It is really a big
shock for me here in Switzerland.
"I have security problems and this is not the right way to handle
referees' decisions, whether they are right or wrong.
"The police are here with me now as we speak. I'm not going to
leave Switzerland but am somewhere where nobody knows me."
And he told Lausanne daily paper Le Matin: "This has taken on
unacceptable proportions. These people have nothing to do with
journalism. They just make things up and lie. They are trying to
destroy me. There are limits - and they've been long broken.
"Going after my family, digging into my private life - that's totally
unacceptable. I'm not afraid for my own life, but I am afraid of
what might happen to my loved ones."
The morning after England were knocked out of Euro 2004,
many newspapers led attacks on Mr Meier. The Sun asked
readers to "let rip" and send him emails.
The paper claimed the nation was "robbed" by a "half-wit"
referee who made a "heartbreaking decision".
This was followed over the weekend by reports in the Daily Mail
and the Sun, revealing that Mr Meier had left his wife, Franziska,
with whom he has two children, for referee Nicole Petignat. The
papers published details of where he lived and worked.
The Sun followed this up early this week by sticking a huge St
George flag outside his home in northern Switzerland. By then
Mr Meier had already closed his office and left his home.
The media were not the only ones to take umbrage with his
decision to disallow Campbell's goal, however.
Last Friday supermarket chain Asda offered Swiss nationals a
special free eye test in any one of its 68 optical stores.
"Lets face it, we were robbed," David Rutley, the director of
financial services at Asda, was quoted as saying in the British
"Sol obviously scored. Well, it was obvious to everyone apart
from the Swiss referee, who clearly needs his eyes tested."
Mr Rutley added that Asda had already sent Mr Meier a letter
informing him of the offer.
"We've written to Meier telling him that, if he would like to take
us up on the offer, we will throw glasses in as well."
Mr Meier is not without his supporters. Swiss radio station NRJ
urged Swiss people to telephone the Sun to complain.
Switzerland's two biggest selling newspapers, Blick and 20min,
both commended Mr Meier on a good game and said his
decision to disallow the England defender's goal was "fair" and
"justified" - as one would expect from a neutral Swiss referee.
National daily Blick wrote: "What a game, what a drama. The
cool Brits against the hot blooded Portuguese. And the impartial
Swiss ref Urs Meier as the cherry on the cake."
It added: "Referee Meier was right to deny the goal - Terry
impeded goalkeeper Ricardo."
According to 20min: "Ref Meier gave a good performance. His
decision not to allow Campbell's header was correct. Terry
hampered Ricardo. But on the island, they'll look at it
The wave of anti-Swiss feeling among England fans claimed its
first victim on a Greek island, when a Swiss girl was kicked to
the ground and left with a broken arm by England fans after they
spotted her wearing a Swiss football shirt.
Manu Peyer, 22, said she had been wearing the t-shirt, showing
the red and white Swiss national colours, in a bar on the island
Ms Peyer, who is a big England fan, said she had been just as
upset as the English over Mr Meier's refusal to count a goal that
might have secured the game for England.
Three English hooligans, who were furious when they saw her
t-shirt, watched her as she walked home to her holiday
apartment before attacking her.
"One of them hit me in the face with his fist and I fell to the
ground because of the force of his punch," said Ms Peyer.
The shaven-headed attackers then began kicking her as she lay
on the ground.
When the ordeal was over, Ms Peyer had a swollen eye, a
squashed nose and a broken arm. She had to go to hospital for
treatment. She has also been forced to take leave from work.
"I think they beat me up because of Meyer's ominous call on the
goal," Ms Peyer told Swiss radio after she had returned to her
home town of Zurich.
Nevertheless, she said she planned to support the English team
in the future because "after all, most of the English are good
Mr Meier shares this view, despite what he has been through in
the past few days.
Speaking to Swissinfo he said: "I like English football and the
people in England. I spent my holidays there last year and I
know not all the people are the same.
"But some of the fans are really overheated now and it isn't right
that newspapers like the Sun should invade a person's private
life in this way."