REF rage may drive officials out of rugby league because of its mental toll and stop any from wanting to pick up a whistle.
SunSport revealed how the son of Aussie Matt Cecchin was told there was a bounty on his dad’s head after his key call in England’s World Cup semi-final win over Tonga.
GETTY Former Super League ref Ian Smith has warned abuse from fans is taking its toll
It is also believed several Super League referees have had messages over social media and e-mail from supporters targeting them for abuse.
Now former ref Ian Smith says what is said does have an impact and attitudes need to change, or face having no refs at all.
As the State of Mind round of fixtures, to raise awareness of the mental health charity, begins tonight, Smith said: “They don’t deserve it and it’s getting worse.
“You have these keyboard warriors around. When I was at school, you used to bump into the school bullies, now they’re everywhere, these warriors who feel they can say anything they want with impunity and it doesn’t have an effect.
“Well, let me tell you it does have an effect. Whether a decision is right or wrong, no person should be subjected to that level of abuse.
Getty Images Ref Matt Cecchin’s son was told a bounty was on his dad’s head after England beat Tonga (pictured) in last year’s World Cup
“Over an 80 minute game, referees make 25,000 judgments and burn 1,700 calories running between nine-and-a-half and 11 kilometres. My heartbeat was 155 beats per minute, three times my average.
“And after all that one decision is picked out and targeted. Yes, refs wear the uniform but underneath it there’s a human being that bleeds, cries and has emotions.”
Smith admits he struggled to fill the void left by the end of his refereeing career. Now he is giving sessions around the country to rugby clubs and businesses about the challenge of mental health.
He added: “State of Mind had a massive impact on me. When my refereeing career ended, I had a void. People talk about players having an adrenaline rush but refs do too. Losing it left a massive hole and I struggled to fill it.”
Meanwhile, fears of a sub-2,000 crowd for tonight’s game between Salford and Widnes are growing. SunSport understands that by Tuesday, the Vikings had sold just 44 tickets.