Referee who cost England at Euro 2004 had to go into hiding in Swiss safehouse

The referee who cost England a place in the Euro 2004 semi-finals has disclosed that he was forced to go into hiding in a Swiss safehouse in the aftermath of the quarter-final against Portugal.

Michael Owen had put the Three Lions ahead after just three minutes, before Hélder Postiga equalised with seven minutes remaining.

But England thought they had won the game in the dying stages of the match when Sol Campbell headed in amid a goalmouth scramble following David Beckham’s free-kick.

Referee Urs Meier though ruled that John Terry had obstructed goalkeeper Ricardo and disallowed what many Three Lions supporters thought was the winner.

Disallowing the goal saw the game go into extra-time, with Rui Costa putting Portugal ahead after 110 minutes, but Frank Lampard equalised soon after.

That meant it went to penalties, where misses from Beckham and Darrius Vassell ensured the Three Lions were knocked out.

In the aftermath of the match, The Sun published Meier’s email address, with the Swiss referee receiving thousands of pieces of hate mail.

The 62-year-old has now revealed that the police told him that they could not ensure his safety amid the death threats.

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“England players didn’t appear to fold it against me – bust sadly, the same couldn’t be said for the press,” he told FourFourTwo.

“The next day I woke up to find 16,000 emails in my inbox. They were all in English, death threats and insults. ‘I’ll kill you, you f****** a*******!’ – that sort of thing.

“I scrolled down in complete astonishment. I’d gone to bed the night before thinking everything had gone well. What was going on?

“The Swiss police phoned to tell me that I was in danger and that I should lie low in Portugal. They wouldn’t be able to ensure my safety if I tried to go home.”

The hate became so intense that Meier was unable to leave his Portuguese hotel room, with the referee left to fend for himself by UEFA.

“My face was on the front cover of every tabloid in England – they’d also found out my email address and published it – hence the hate mail,” Meier said.

“I deleted my entire inbox and deactivated the account. If I hadn’t, I think I’d have received more than half a million email at the rate they were coming in.

“Over the next few days, journalists hounded me. The pressure was so immense that I couldn’t leave my hotel room. Nobody from UEFA got in touch. I felt alone.

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“Eventually, I couldn’t stay any longer – I told the police I’d take my chances at the airport and flew home days later.”

After deciding to return home, the Swiss police enacted a number of security precautions to ensure the under-fire referee’s safety.

According to Meier, this included staying in a safehouse as well as a round-the-clock police guard.

“When my plane touched down in Zurich, two police officers in civilian clothing were waiting to collect me on the runway,” he said.

“They got me from my seat, walked me out to a car, put me in the back and drove me to a town called Baden, about 20 miles outside of Zurich.

“I was taken to a safehouse and instructed to hide there until I was able to go home. I couldn’t even tell my family or friends where I was.

“After about a week, I was allowed to travel back to where I live up in the mountains.”

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