Pierluigi Collina believes referees are being "killed every week" by excessive criticism.
The Italian - widely regarded as football's top official before retiring in 2005 - fears the negativity could lead to a lack of people wanting to referee at the top level.
"If you kill referees every week we can finish referees," Collina said.
"We need years to build up referees and one second to destroy them. To keep them we need to protect them."
Collina, 51, speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, added: "One of the things we have to consider is that we cannot buy referees at the supermarket.
"You cannot find referees in the corner of the street."
Football Association referees' committee chairman David Elleray backed Collina's stance on the criticism of officials.
"Last season in the Premier League 98 per cent of offside decisions were correct," he told the conference.
"I would defy any manager to claim 98 per cent of his selection decisions which he has time to think about were correct or that any player achieved 98 per cent success rate with his shots, tackles or passing the ball.
"Two per cent of so-called mistakes attracted huge publicity."
On Wednesday, the Football Association confirmed goal-line technology would not be used in the Premier League next season.
Collina, now a Uefa referees committee member, told the conference there was no need for the system.
"I think the goal-line can be easily controlled by two additional assistant referees," he said.
Extra officials, who stand behind the goals, have been tested over the last two years, initially in the Europa League and then the Champions League. They have been criticised in some quarters for failing to spot other incidents inside the penalty area.
Collina admitted mistakes had been made, but said these were by referees who had ignored the advice of their assistants.