Referee's dreams in tatters after ban

A SUFFOLK referee's dreams of a future professional career are in doubt today after he was banned from football matches for three years after attempting to headbutt a steward at an Ipswich Town match.

A SUFFOLK referee's dreams of a future professional career are in doubt today after he was banned from football matches for three years after attempting to headbutt a steward at an Ipswich Town match.

Matthew Oakley, 25, was in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand at the Ipswich Town v Watford match on October 20 when he was seen being abusive and using foul language.

Oakley, who referees football matches in Suffolk, was approached by a steward and told to leave the stand. But he refused and shouted “I am not going”.

The steward then took hold of his arm and Oakley started to wriggle and struggle.

As he was removed from the stand, Oakley grabbed hold of railings and stewards had to pull him to make him release his hold. He then lunged his head forward at one of the stewards. It was only because the steward moved his head back that Oakley's headbutt failed to connect.

At South East Suffolk Magistrates Court in Ipswich yesterday, Oakley, of Sandbanks Court, Saxmundham, pleaded guilty to a charge of section 4 words/behaviour - fear unlawful violence.

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Gareth Davies, prosecuting, told the court: “The aggravating feature about this is that Oakley should be showing respect and good behaviour at football games because he, in effect, is a role model because he is a referee.”

Oakley, who had drank some pints of beer before the match, told the court: “It is a dream of mine and a banning order will put an end to that. I was just frustrated with the atmosphere. And with the singing and adrenalin, I was just frustrated that I was being asked to move when we were really not hurting anyone in our eyes.”

But district judge David Cooper issued him with a three-year football banning order and ordered him to pay �400 in fines and costs.

After the case, the Suffolk County Football Association (FA) said it was holding an emergency committee meeting last nightto discuss Oakley's future as a referee.

Martin Head, chief executive of Suffolk FA, said: “We want to deal with this as soon as possible. The principle of someone who is registered to Suffolk Football Association as a referee and gets himself into situations like this, I am very disappointed about that.

“We are all human at the end of the day but we would hope that when you are involved in football, you would be aware that if something went wrong, it could reflect on football as well as your refereeing.”

After the case Pc Marc Norman, Suffolk Constabulary's football intelligence officer, said Oakley's punishment sent out a strong message to yobs ahead of the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

As part of the conditions of his football banning order, Oakley will have to hand in his passport to the police.

Pc Norman said: “Suffolk Constabulary will not tolerate violent or abusive behaviour inside or outside of a football match, and we will pursue football banning orders where appropriate.

“This case serves as a warning to other potential troublemakers who intend to follow England. If you are arrested at a domestic fixture in England or Wales it will have severe implications if you want to attend the World Cup.”

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