London: English referee Michael Oliver has been offered police support after being abused by social media trolls following his Champions League penalty controversy.
Oliver and his wife Lucy were targeted in the aftermath of last week's quarter-final second leg clash between Real Madrid and Juventus.
Juventus were winning 3-0 after losing the first leg by the same score, but their hopes of a famous victory were spoiled when Oliver awarded a stoppage-time penalty to Madrid.
Juventus complained bitterly that Oliver had got it wrong and their goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for barging into the referee during their furious protests.
Buffon later said the 33-year-old Oliver had a "bag of rubbish for a heart".
Cristiano Ronaldo converted the penalty to eliminate Juventus and in the following days Oliver and his family were subjected to sickening taunts online.
His wife's mobile phone number was posted on social media and she received abusive text messages.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: "We are aware of threatening messages being posted on social media.
"This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and those writing the messages need to be aware that they could be committing a criminal offence.
"Neighbourhood officers are in touch with the victims in this case to offer them support and ensure any further offences are reported to police."
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) condemned the abusive messages aimed at the pair, while Twitter confirmed that it had removed a series of tweets from its platform over the weekend.
Oliver was fourth official at Saturday's Premier League match between Huddersfield and Watford.
Buffon should watch his mouth, says Italian ref chief
Italian referees' chief Marcello Nicchi said Monday that Buffon should think before lashing out at officials as he did during last week's Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.
The 40-year-old Italian icon later called Oliver "a murderer" with "a rubbish bin" in place of a heart.
"Buffon is a great champion who I hope will go on to have a great managerial career," Nicchi told Italian radio.
"But at certain levels you have to be careful about what you say. There are always kids listening.
"If it happened in Italy? I would have defended the referee. They can't be threatened either before, during, or after the game.
"After that, there are the appropriate bodies which must judge the conduct of all players on the pitch."
Meanwhile, Nicchi warned of a repeat of the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal if referees lose their right to vote at the top of the game in Italy.
The Italian Referees' Association (AIA) could lose its two percent voting allocation in the Italian Football Federation's Federal Council.
And AIA president Nicchi believes this could open the door to behind-the-scenes meddling like during the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Serie A and Serie B in 2006.
"To undermine the independence and impartiality of our referees could mean the start of a new Calciopoli," said Nicchi.
"I'm doing everything to calm the referees, but if one day someone goes out on the pitch and doesn't find the referee, I wouldn't be surprised," he added of possible strike action.
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Updated Date: Apr 16, 2018 23:45:58 IST