In response to Swedish referee Anders Frisk's decision to put an early end to his refereeing career as a result of many recent threats, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has again reaffirmed his wholehearted support for referees. Last weekend, the Swedish international referee announced his retirement. In a letter addressed to the FIFA President and the chairman of the FIFA Referees' Committee, Angel Maria Villar Llona (Spain), on 14 March 2005, Frisk voiced his extreme disappointment and sadness at having to capitulate "to threats from people who have no respect whatsoever for human values."
The FIFA President thoroughly condemned the people behind these threats and at the same time sharply criticised the behaviour of coaches, officials and players whose comments both on and off the field - often deliberately - upset referees. "I am appalled by the verbal attacks directed at referees. It is often such extreme behaviour that sparks off trouble among supporters. I strongly urge everyone concerned to show respect towards referees and demonstrate fair play."
In this connection, Joseph S. Blatter exhorted the media to ignore such verbal attacks and appealed to them "to weigh up the potential ramifications of such statements before reporting them." He also encouraged the member associations of FIFA and the confederations to take vigorous action against anyone demonstrating this kind of behaviour.
The FIFA President reminded the perpetrators of such criticism and offensive behaviour towards referees of their responsibilities. "Anyone who attacks a referee, attacks the football environment in which he lives."
The FIFA President has made refereeing one of his principal preoccupations in his current term of office. Last month, the Referees' Committee called 46 referees, including Anders Frisk, to Frankfurt with a view to making a final selection for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. At a meeting last week, the FIFA Executive Committee declared its intention to speed up the procedure for establishing professional refereeing among member associations.