Former Premier League referee Bobby Madley has opened up on the torment he endured after a bizarre rumour caught fire on social media and spiraled out of control.
Madley was well known on the referee circuit of England's top flight division, often taking charge of some of the Premier League's biggest fixtures until his surprise retirement in August 2018 aged just 32.
The Wakefield-born referee discovered the full powers of social media, after individuals started to make up reasons as to why he had disappeared from the game.
Following his exit from Premier League football, Bobby Madley's life quickly took a turn
Madley endured months of torment after malicious fake rumour caught like wildfire
'I'm a Huddersfield fan, Huddersfield being the Terriers, and I think it was a Leeds fan who put out a comment that I was a 'dog botherer'. Then it just snowballed online,' Madley said during a recent interview with The Athletic.
'People were putting up pictures, quite inventive stuff, and some of them were funny. But then people started tagging in the police and the RSPCA and it started to get out of hand.
'All of a sudden, it was 'trending' number nine worldwide. Suddenly, people were saying they had seen a video and that I should be arrested.
'Then, there were animal rights campaigners saying, "I know where he lives". I ended up needing police protection, all from a nonsense rumour.'
Madley announced his retirement in August 2018, aged just 32, but it did not seem clear why
Behind the scenes, Madley was axed from his job after mocking a disabled person in a video
Madley's sacking originated from a private video he sent when attending a parent and child race at his children's school.
He recorded a six- second Snapchat clip of someone with a walking impairment passing his car.
He captioned the clip ‘f**k me I have a chance of winning the parents race this year,’ which was later passed on to his employers by an unnamed person following an argument.
Madley's quiet exit from football served simply to stoke the flames of the fire, after PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board) chief Mike Riley dismissed him from his post but a subsequent statement only added confusion.
The PGMOL insisted Madley ‘decided to relocate due to a change in his personal