Football refs' backlash
FOOTBALL referees could refuse to take on matches in a backlash against growing levels of abuse from players.The officials have decided "enough is enough" and could boycott a particular team or an entire league if a referee is assaulted.
FOOTBALL referees could refuse to take on matches in a backlash against growing levels of abuse from players.
The officials have decided "enough is enough" and could boycott a particular team or an entire league if a referee is assaulted.
The Ipswich Referees Society unanimously passed a motion at its annual meeting to allow them to take action if a member is subjected to physical or verbal abuse.
It comes after a string of assaults against match officials over recent seasons. In April, Ipswich referee Christopher Dale was hospitalised after being kicked in the stomach by a pub team player.
Further assaults could now see referees refusing to officiate in a team's matches for one month or boycotting a league or competition for seven days.
David Sale, public relations officer for the society, said: "We do feel helpless, but this now gives us an opportunity to do something.
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"It was a highly-charged meeting, but as the largest branch in East Anglia, we felt there was a need for us to be seen to be doing something."
The new rule means any assault will be debated at society meetings. Members will then take a vote on any disciplinary action, pending decisions from the county Football Association.
Mr Sale added: "The possible actions range from members being requested not to accept appointments from the club concerned (in the assault) for a period of one month to members being requested not to accept appointments from the competition or league concerned for a period of seven days."
The society is writing to all leagues and competitions before the start of the new season outlining the full disciplinary procedure.
Meanwhile, it has emerged 340 referees in Suffolk had registered by the cut-off date of June 1 – a drop of 60 on the same time last year.
Much of the blame has been attributed to rising levels of physical and verbal abuse, highlighted when Mr Dale was attacked during a Sunday league match between Belstead Arms and St Clements.
Belstead Arms player Andrew Coote, 21, has been banned for life from the game for the attack, which he admitted, while his team has been thrown out of the Select Technical Services League.
He was ordered to pay Mr Dale £800 in compensation and told to carry out 100 hours of community service, as well as attending an anger management course.
But many referees believed the sentence was lenient and felt Coote should have been jailed, sparking talk in some quarters of an officials' strike.