A retired Sunderland dentist who is the namesake of a high-profile football referee has pleaded with irate Italian fans to leave him alone.
Michael Oliver, 57, originally from Fulwell, was hit with a barrage of abuse on Twitter by irate Juventus fans last night.
It came after another Michael Oliver - the Ashington-born whistler - awarded a last-ditch penalty to Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final against Juventus which led to them edging the Italian side out of the competition.
Oliver also showed a red card to Juve’s Italian international goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon for his furious protests at the decision.
It left some Juventus supporters searching for the referee on Twitter came across his dentist namesake, and sent a number of abusive messages, including chilling death threats.
The non-refereeing Mr Oliver, who worked for 34 years as a dentist at Oliver’s Dental Studio, in East Herrington, was taken aback by the level of vitriol inadvertently directed at him.
If I was Michael Oliver the referee, abuse on that scale would have been a disgrace anywayMichael Oliver
He said: “I wasn’t watching the game, but my phone started to get lively and I realised something controversial must have happened.
“I didn’t even realise Michael Oliver was refereeing that game until I saw my Twitter feed.
“There was some emotional tweeting, and some of it was pretty savage.
“They were threatening my children and saying they were going to snap my neck.
“There was some serious verbal abuse from three or four accounts and it wasn’t pleasant.
“It didn’t worry me, but I was angered by the abuse.
“If I was Michael Oliver the referee, abuse on that scale would have been a disgrace anyway.”
Mr Oliver was a champion of Sunderland’s bid to be named the UK City of Culture 2021, and was named the Dentist of the Year in the Echo’s Best of Health Awards in 2014.
This is not the first time the former dentist, who lives in Chester-le-Street, has been mistaken for the referee on Twitter.
He added: “I’ve seen it before, but not on this scale.
“It usually happens with Manchester United, Liverpool and high-profile games.
“Some of the lowlives don’t even check who they are sending the tweets to.
“It’s quite clear from my Twitter profile that I’m not Michael Oliver the referee.
“Premier League referees aren’t on Twitter anyway.
“I usually just find it mildly amusing when people think I’m him.
“It has never caused me distress before, but this time was a bit different.”