Tom Henning Øvrebø

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Tom Henning Øvrebø
Full name Tom Henning Øvrebø
Born (1966-06-26) 26 June 1966 (age 49)
Oslo, Norway
Other occupation Psychologist
Years League Role
1992–2013 Tippeligaen Referee
Years League Role
1994–2010 FIFA Referee

Tom Henning Øvrebø (born 26 June 1966) is a Norwegian former football referee. Born in Oslo, Øvrebø has been a UEFA Elite referee,[1] having refereed matches in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League. He has worked as a qualified psychologist outside of football.[2]

Domestic career[edit]

Øvrebø has refereed over 200 games in the Norwegian Premier League since his debut on 20 September 1992. He represents the club Nordstrand. In 1994, he became an authorised FIFA referee. He won the Kniksen award as referee of the year in the Norwegian Premier League for 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. He refereed the Norwegian Cup finals of 1999 (RosenborgBrann) and 2006 (FredrikstadSandefjord).

Euro 2008[edit]

Øvrebø was chosen to referee at Euro 2008 — his first major tournament and the first time he was chosen over fellow countryman and colleague Terje Hauge. He refereed the GermanyPoland match on the opening day of Group B. He refereed the ItalyRomania match, which resulted in a 1–1 draw. The Italian Football Federation later demanded an apology from UEFA after Luca Toni’s goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside in the Italy–Romania match that Øvrebø refereed.[3] There was also criticism of the official for a penalty given to Romania and a yellow card to Daniele De Rossi at the ending moments of the game. Afterwards, Øvrebø admitted he had made a mistake about the offside decision, which had also been flagged by his assistant.[4]

Subsequently, Øvrebø was one of six referees not assigned a match in the knockout stages of Euro 2008 (see Euro 2008 Match officials).

2008/09 Champions League[edit]

Øvrebø was "widely criticised for the manner in which he handled" the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg between Chelsea and Barcelona on 6 May 2009, turning down six penalty appeals by the Chelsea team.[5]

During the last minutes of the game and after the final whistle, several Chelsea players confronted Øvrebø on the field including substituted Didier Drogba, who was recorded shouting "It's a fucking disgrace!" at live television cameras about the whole happening.[6] Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink labelled the referee's performance as "the worst I have ever seen".[7] The offenses where Øvrebø should have awarded penalties to Chelsea, as listed by Hiddink, were a shirt-pull on Didier Drogba by Éric Abidal; handballs by Gerard Piqué (Pique admitted the official got it wrong, saying: "The ball touched my hand but I didn't want to touch it. You have to respect the [referee's] decision"[6]) and by Samuel Eto'o; and a grab on Florent Malouda by Daniel Alves inside the penalty area.[8]

Chelsea defender José Bosingwa also had harsh words for Øvrebø, saying "I don't know if he's a referee or a thief", though he later said that he regretted his choice of words.[9][10] Øvrebø, after the game ended, reportedly admitted to UEFA officials he "made several big mistakes."[6] Øvrebø was smuggled out of England by police in fears for his safety after receiving a number of death threats.

Chelsea quickly moved to distance the club from these threats by reporting via their website "Following media reports claiming threats have been made against the referee, Chelsea Football Club would like to make clear that it condemns any form of threat against players, officials or supporters".[11]

Drogba was subsequently banned for four matches (plus two matches suspended for two years) by UEFA for his behaviour, while Bosingwa was banned for three matches (plus one suspended). As part of the same judgement, Chelsea were fined £85,000 for improper conduct on the part of Chelsea players and fans.[12] Following an appeal by both players, personally attending a hearing in Switzerland, they both had their bans reduced by one match.[13] Prior to the semi-final, Øvrebø had also handled 21 other Champions League games among a total of 48 UEFA matches overall. To this day, Øvrebø has admitted he is still the subject of abuse from Chelsea fans. Øvrebø told The Guardian:

"The abuse has lasted and I get about three to four emails a year. It is not nice but nothing too serious, either. I don’t let it upset me or my family. They do not know much about it as I do not show them the emails. Looking back, there are certainly things I would have done differently. I learnt a lot from that experience, but all referees will tell you that they have good and bad matches, moments they do well and moments they do not so well; that is all part of the job. I cannot keep regrets about this one match. My life has to move on from this. Despite all that happened, I still love watching the Champions League, especially the big matches that come later on in the tournament, and this [was] definitely a big match."

— Øvrebø[14]

2009/10 Champions League[edit]

Øvrebø was once again the centre of controversy during the first-leg knockout match between Bayern Munich and Fiorentina. After the match, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli was furious with the referee and linesman: “There were some incidents that changed the game — Massimo Gobbi's dismissal, Miroslav Klose not getting sent off and the offside goal.”[15]

TV replays showed (and Bayern players and officials admitted) that Bayern's winning goal scored in the game's last minutes was indeed an offside goal. Asked about the incident, Bayern coach Louis van Gaal did not comment but repeated his support for the introduction of "technical aids" for the referee.[16]

2010 World Cup qualification[edit]

In the group stages of qualification for the 2010 World Cup, Øvrebø refereed the Armenia-Turkey and Belgium-Spain matches, as well as the potentially fiery Slovakia-Czech Republic. On 10 October 2009, Øvrebø refereed the Greece-Latvia match, where he contentiously awarded a penalty to Greece early in the second period. Latvian manager Aleksandrs Starkovs voiced his disagreement with the decision, claiming that "there was clearly no foul".[17]

Øvrebø was among the 14 pre-selected referees from UEFA for the final stages in South Africa,[18] but did not make the final cut of 10 representatives from Europe.[19]

He ended his international career in May 2010 but continued to officiate in the Norwegian Premier League.[20] During the 2013 season, Øvrebø only officiated matches in the Norwegian Cup and the Norwegian First Division due to a knee-injury.

In October 2013, Øvrebø announced his retirement from professional refereeing.[21]


  1. ^ UEFA har offentliggjort sin nye rangeringsliste for dommere. (2009-12-22). Retrieved on 2012-05-18.
  2. ^ Factsheet 2 – Korrektur UEFA Euro 2008
  3. ^ Euro 2008: Italy v Romania. Guardian (2008-06-13). Retrieved on 2012-05-18.
  4. ^ Norwegian referee: – I was wrong. (2008-06-15). Retrieved on 2012-05-18.
  5. ^ Referee from Chelsea's 2009 home tie with Barcelona still given abuse. Guardian (2012-04-05). Retrieved on 2012-11-16.
  6. ^ a b c Fleming, Mark (7 May 2009). "Drogba rages as Chelsea crash out in blaze of fury". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 May 2009. 
  7. ^ Chelsea rage at referee for not giving them four penalties. Guardian (2009-05-07). Retrieved on 2012-05-18.
  8. ^ "Chelsea's manager Guus Hiddink fumes at ref Tom Henning Ovrebo",, 6 May 2009
  9. ^ Police worried for ref Ovrebo ESPN Soccernet (2009-05-07)
  10. ^ "Bosingwa Retracts Thief Claim". Sky Sports. 2009-05-07. Retrieved 7 May 2009. 
  11. ^ Jackson, Jamie (2009-05-08). "Death threats force the referee Tom Henning Ovrebo into hiding". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2009. 
  12. ^ "Drogba given lengthy European ban". BBC Sport. 2009-05-18. 
  13. ^ "Drogba and Boswinga bans reduced". BBC Sport. 2009-07-16. 
  14. ^ "'I still get abuse from Chelsea fans for the 2009 semi-final against Barcelona' - referee Tom Henning Ovrebo". 6 April 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "Prandelli: 'Three refereeing errors'". Channel 4. 2010-02-17. Archived from the original on 2010-03-24. 
  16. ^ "Bayerns Skandaltreffer gegen Florenz 'Das ist kein Abseits, oder?'" ("Bayern scandal: 'This is not offside, is it?'"), Spiegel Online, 18 February 2010 (in German)
  17. ^ Starkovs: "Pendeles tur nebija". (2009-10-11). Retrieved on 2012-05-18.
  18. ^ List of prospective 2010 FIFA World Cup referees
  19. ^ Referees with Assistant Referees
  20. ^ Johannessen, Sturla (18 May 2010). "Øvrebø gir seg som FIFA-dommer" (in Norwegian). TV 2 Sporten. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Øvrebø legger opp som fotballdommer". Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.