Mike Dean has asked not to officiate a Premier League game this weekend after receiving abuse and death threats on social media after handing out two controversial red cards.
The 52-year-old was criticised for sending off West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek for violent conduct after he appeared to accidentally strike Aleksandar Mitrovic in the Hammers' 0-0 draw at Fulham on Saturday.
That incident came just four days after Dean sent off Southampton defender Jan Bednarek for a challenge on Anthony Martial in the Saints' 9-0 thrashing at Manchester United.
Both decisions have been overturned on appeal with Soucek now available for West Ham's FA Cup away trip to Manchester United on Tuesday evening as well as being available for the Premier League matches against Sheffield United and Tottenham.
- David Luiz appeal dismissed | Jan Bednarek red card rescinded
- Controversial Tomas Soucek red as Fulham hold West Ham
In both cases Dean chose to give a red card after being advised to view the incident on the pitchside monitor by the video assistant referee (VAR).
Dean's family has also been targeted with social media abuse. All abuse has been reported to the police.
Soucek tweeted his support for Dean on Monday night, saying: "Whatever decisions are made on the pitch should stay on the pitch.
"I don't like hearing about it interfering with personal life and I send Mike Dean and his family my support. There is no place for abuse of any kind. It is in the past and I'm now focused on the rest of the season."
Whatever decisions are made on the pitch should stay on the pitch. I don’t like hearing about it interfering with personal life and I send Mike Dean and his family my support. There is no place for abuse of any kind. It is in the past and I’m now focused on the rest of the season https://t.co/Tcofvo8a9X— Tomáš Souček (@tomassoucek28) February 8, 2021
Dean will still referee Wednesday's FA Cup game between Leicester and Brighton where VAR will once again be in operation and operated by Graham Scott, with Dean's assistant referees Darren Cann and Timothy Wood.
Dean may return to Premier League action the following weekend and if so, it is possible he could work alongside Lee Mason again as officials generally work in groups.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: "It is inexcusable that Mike Dean and his family have received online abuse, including death threats, as a result of doing his job officiating at a Premier League match.
"It is completely unacceptable that we are seeing abusive behaviour aimed at players, managers and match officials regularly on social media platforms.
"Mike and his family have our full support in reporting this to the police. This once again highlights the need for greater proactive intervention from social media companies to stop online abuse and identify offenders."
After being sent off against Manchester United, Bednarek could be heard saying "Martial said it's not a foul", while Soucek tweeted after his red against Fulham that "I spoke with Aleksandar Mitrovic in and after the game and he said to me that our duel was fair".
I am glad my red card against Fulham has been overturned. I’ve checked it, I’ve gone over 200 games without a single red card. My entire career. I am looking forward to helping the team in the important games this week! Thanks for your support!#westham #whu #COYI pic.twitter.com/wANFeAFmhf— Tomáš Souček (@tomassoucek28) February 8, 2021
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: "We can confirm officers are investigating allegations of malicious communications reported today, Monday 8 February.
"The reports relate to social media accounts and enquiries are ongoing. We monitor the internet, and if we identify any offences we will take action.
"Those who use the internet to target others, and who commit a criminal offence [eg hate crime/malicious communications], are not beyond the law - and can + will be investigated and brought to justice."
Speaking on Sky Sports News' Ref Watch, Dermot Gallagher said: "I'm not a great one for looking back, but when I was refereeing, I took stick in games or coming out to the car park afterwards. But when you went home that was then end of it.
"Unfortunately, now we have social media, and it goes on and on and on, creating avenues like this which are very distasteful.
"It's not a good place for Mike Dean to be at the moment, I feel for him and his family. I worked with Mike many years ago and bump into him every now and then, he's a very upbeat, happy guy. I wouldn't wish this on anybody, it's terrible."
On the situation, PGMOL managing director, Mike Riley added: "Threats and abuse of this nature are totally unacceptable and we fully support Mike's decision to report these messages his family received to the police.
"Nobody should be victim of abhorrent messages like this. Online abuse is unacceptable in any walk of life and more needs to be done to tackle the problem."
The threats towards Dean came over a weekend that saw several professional footballers face racial abuse on social media platforms, leading the FA to call on social media companies to act quickly in the fight against online racial abuse.
The government responded on Monday by saying it will change the law to make social media companies more accountable for malicious content.
Online racist abuse of footballers is absolutely shocking & must stop.— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) February 8, 2021
In advance of this recent spate of cases, I called a mtg to hear first hand accounts of the daily abuse players receive and the awful toll it takes on them.
Oliver Dowden - the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - described the abuse targeted at players such as Axel Tuanzebe and Lauren James as "absolutely shocking" and called a meeting to discuss them.
Sky Sports News is awaiting comment from Twitter and Facebook to the strongly-worded challenge by the FA on Sunday, in which the governing body said: "Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse."
Dermot Gallagher believes the swift Tomas Soucek resolution has been the only positive from the fallout engulfing referee Mike Dean.
Speaking on Sky Sports News' Ref Watch, Gallagher said: "Where I feel for Mike Dean, the VAR triggered a review and he went to the review area. The VAR told him to look at Soucek's clenched fist, something VAR looks out for, because when you clench your fist it's as if you're giving power to a decision. Well, I don't think it was that, Soucek may have had a clenched fist but it wasn't to gain power.
"It was an error of judgement, everyone I've spoken to has said it was an accident, and it has been rescinded. The right decision has been reached, and it has also been made quickly, which puts it to bed, and everyone can move on.
"Mike Dean couldn't come out and say he made a mistake because he cannot prejudice the Premier League's process of either issuing a suspension or rescinding the red card. It's a very difficult situation, it's a balancing act and what they have got at the moment is the fairest way.
"In terms of Mike Dean listening to Mitrovic saying it wasn't a red card, I think you've got to be careful. As a referee you have to be completely impartial and make your own decisions. The reaction of players can tell you certain things, but it is not an accurate barometer."
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