EXCLUSIVE: FA Cup final referee Michael Oliver's wife Lucy vows to stand up against Twitter troll abuse
With inevitability, the name of Michael Oliver will this evening deluge social media.
The pinnacle of officiating the FA Cup final is offset by the world’s glare, Wembley’s prized showpiece forensically scrutinised across the globe.
For the youngest referee in Premier League history and his proud family, the occasion represents recognition of a professional at the summit of his profession.
Yet repercussions can be brutal.
Wife Lucy, an ex-Pompey season-ticket holder from Drayton, was last month subjected to sickening Twitter threats and received offensive texts following the online posting of her mobile number.
It was the seismic aftermath to Oliver awarding a last-minute penalty and sending off Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon as Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League semi-finals by Real Madrid.
The 28-year-old former South Downs College lecturer, a Level 3 referee, found herself occupying international headlines as the Italian fan-driven backlash fired off in scattergun manner.
And as she prepares for her family’s Wembley honour, the refusal to let the trolls triumph is inspiring.
In her first interview on the controversy, Lucy Oliver told The News: ‘Tomorrow is testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment Michael puts into his career. He deserves it so much, I couldn’t be prouder.
‘It’s not just an occasion for us as a couple, it’s an occasion for our families too because they are also part of the journey and it has been testing at times – for all of us.
‘With that Juventus game, I was watching it on television at home, I could see those Tweets.
‘I was crying my eyes out.
‘During the next four or five days I was never on my own.
‘And the Premier League were unbelievable, absolutely fantastic. Everyone was so supportive.
‘I came off social media for two weeks and have now changed my settings so I won’t receive notifications unless it’s someone I am following.
‘I no longer see what they are Tweeting me. It’s a shame, but while social media has its perks, it also has setbacks.
‘I miss out on some really lovely things because people do say nice stuff, people can be lovely. Yet you are talking about one nice Tweet – and 99 telling you how rubbish you are.
‘But why shouldn’t I be the person I want to be because of what people say about me?
‘Why should I quit Twitter? For me, coming off social media at that time would have looked guilty. Why would someone delete their Twitter account if they weren’t trying to hide something?
‘I had nothing to hide, I am a Pompey fan, so what? Everyone has skeletons in their closet anyway, I am proud to be a Pompey fan.
‘My husband is Michael Oliver, so what? I don’t tell Michael what to do and it doesn’t even cross his mind to let that happen.
‘I find that when English fans are being really personal they don’t tag you. Then your name starts trending and it is like “What have I done now?”.
‘When it is probably a little less raw, I want to go out and help people understand that when you troll online the trolling doesn’t stop there.
‘No longer is it trolling online, it’s trolling in person.’
Lucy, a former Springfield School pupil, married Michael Oliver in June 2015.
They were drawn together through refereeing, eventually settling down in Morpeth, Northumberland, with Oliver hailing from the north-east.
While the Premier League official is a Newcastle fan, his wife is a Pompey fanatic.
Her Blues association last week drew social media criticism from some Southampton fans, questioning her husband’s allegiances as referee for their crucial relegation clash with Swansea.
Still, today represents a clean sweep for Oliver, having previously taken charge of finals for the FA Vase, FA Trophy, FA Youth Cup and the 2016 Capital One Cup.
And, with Lucy back on Twitter, she continues to demonstrate admirable class when combatting trolls.
She added: ‘When I was a bit younger and a complete hothead, should someone say something and start trolling me then I’d really attack them back and call them out.
‘But what I have learnt over time is it’s best to take yourself off Twitter for a week or two, let someone else’s news story take over and then go back on because I’m one person, I’m not going to win.
‘There is more to be said for walking away than arguing. If you argue with idiots you don’t drag them up to your level, you go down to theirs.
‘If someone is quite accurate then the Pompey girl in me comes out and I’m “Right, you’ll have it now” – but what do I win?
‘Silence cannot be misquoted, so if I had Tweeted anything over that week it would have been in the papers even more than it was.
‘I was being approached by national reporters all the time, all the time. They don’t tend to take no for an answer.
‘I had to contact the Premier League to ask for a few journalists in particular to back off because they were trying to contact me through work, personal circles, social media and family.
‘One of them even contacted a place where I carried out consultancy work about two years ago for the Youth Sports Trust and asked them to get in touch with me. I thought “This is just getting ridiculous, I’m not going to comment”.
‘I think the key was for Michael and myself to both remain silent and not say anything, not change who we are not, not change what we do.
‘Ultimately the storm will pass – and thankfully it did pass.’