Violent times for men in black

THREE referees have suffered assaults while taking charge of matches in the Ipswich Sunday Football League this season.And a pre-season game involving clubs from the same league had to be abandoned after 25 minutes – with three players already sent off.

By Elvin King

THREE referees have suffered assaults while taking charge of matches in the Ipswich Sunday Football League this season.

And a pre-season game involving clubs from the same league had to be abandoned after 25 minutes – with three players already sent off.

Despite this sad state of affairs, two of the referees involved continue to have faith in Sunday football.

The shortage of qualified officials is such that games in the lower divisions of the ISML rarely have neutral referees. And with around 130 of last season's referees not registering with the Suffolk Football Association this term the situation is only going to get worse.

Clive Skinner was left battered and bruised after an incident in last Sunday's Division Four match between Norbridge Reserves and Felixstowe Harpers at Whitton Sports Centre.

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He said that it would take more than that to put him off and the 31-year-old is all set to referee the Needham Market v Occold game in the same division this weekend.

Last month, BT Research Reserves team manager Colin Goody gave up his own game to take charge of the Division Ten match against Northam Celtic Reserves. He sent off three Celtic players and one allegedly struck him in the face.

Goody was back refereeing a match last Sunday and said that he does not want to put anybody off taking up the whistle.

A game between Orford Sports and 405 in Division Seven saw another referee allegedly assaulted by a Orford player and this matter is also currently being dealt with by the Suffolk FA.

Skinner, who took up the whistle ten years ago and lives in Sudbury, said that last Sunday was a sad day for football.

"The player responsible was immediately banned from all involvement with football by the Football Association," he said. "I was punched and kicked and I have drafted a report to the FA.

"I have bruises on my legs but the worst bruise is inside. The hurt goes much deeper. I referee for enjoyment and take charge of games at the Ipswich Town Academy. It will take more than this to put me off.

"There was still 15 minutes left on Sunday and I played out the rest of the game. A lot of referees are giving up and I can understand why. The person involved threatened further action if he saw me in the street. We are not there to be abused."

Skinner, who played a dozen games for Hadleigh United a few years ago, would still advise any budding referee to take up the whistle.

"We have yellow and red cards. We have full backing from the Referees' Association and the Football Association," he added.

"Players must realise that they have the right of appeal if they are booked or sent off. They lose this right if they strike a referee."

Skinner will be running the line at Rowhedge in the Premier Division of the Border League this Saturday and has no plans to curtail his busy refereeing schedule.

Players shown yellow cards are fined just £7 and many referees think this is not a deterrent. Referees get paid just £12 for Sunday games but Goody said that this is not enough.

"A vast majority of Sunday footballers respect referees and the situation is no worse than it was 20 years ago when I first started playing for BT," he said.

"It takes a special type of person to get out of bed for £12 on Sunday mornings. The last thing I want to do is to put anybody off refereeing and local leagues do a magnificent job supporting match officials."

Goody, who has been manager of BT Reserves for 15 years, said that clubs in Division Ten very rarely get allocated neutral referees.

"Our games are not World Cup qualifiers. At the end of the day we are playing in the penultimate league on Sunday mornings.

"Somebody has to take the whistle and on this occasion – as team manager – I said I would give up my game and referee. I sent off two Celtic players for foul and abusive language and was later smacked in the face by a third player.

"I really appreciate what referees do but this was a terrible indictment on how some players treat referees."

Both cases are likely to be taken up by the Suffolk FA and sine die bans are expected in due course if the cases are proved.

A pre-season friendly match between St Clement's (Sunday) FC and Wickham Market was abandoned after 25 minutes following a brawl.

St Clement's had one player sent off for allegedly throwing a punch in retaliation and the visitors had a couple of their players shown red cards

Gary Curtis, secretary of First Division St Clement's said: "Our manager Andrew Trout called his players off the field. He did not want to carry on.

"I understand that the referee was going to abandon the match anyway. I found it hard to find a referee to take charge of the game and now I can understand why.

"In the end I did not tell the referee who we were playing."

Curtis was not at the game that ended in a free-for-all. Wickham Market play in Division Three of the Ipswich Sunday Morning League.

With clubs falling by the wayside at an alarming rate at the moment and a shortage of referees showing no sign on improving, the image of Sunday football is at low ebb.

And episodes like the ones above only add to the troubles.

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