Attacked ref vows not to quit

A YOUNG football referee has told he still wants to reach the top of the game, despite twice being assaulted on the pitch - including one attack which has left him needing plastic surgery.

A YOUNG football referee has told he still wants to reach the top of the game, despite twice being assaulted on the pitch - including one attack which has left him needing plastic surgery.

Sam Douglas' determination to become a professional official has not been dented after the last attack in a Suffolk Sunday league match, in March, which tore his lip open and left him unconscious.

West Row Gunners player Jonathan Futter, 22, of Peterhouse Close, in Mildenhall, who admitted the assault, was sentenced to a suspended jail term by Bury St Edmunds magistrates last week.

But the 20-year-old referee said the suspended sentence and community order did not go far enough.

Mr Douglas, who is a student in Cambridge, said: “It was a match between two rival Suffolk village teams who both needed to win but it was a good game.

“I saw the player commit a foul and went over to issue him a card, I told him to calm down but he punched me on the left part of my lip. I remember blood pouring down my face and falling to the ground, and then I blacked out. When I came round the police and ambulance were there. My face was swollen and I was taken to hospital for 10 stitches.

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“It was the worst abuse as a referee I had experienced but I still want to make it to the top of the game as an official. The way I see it each game is a fresh start.”

He has also called on the FA to take firmer action to support referees, who he says are regularly subject to torrents of abuse and physical attacks in the grassroots league.

The Suffolk FA has said it condemned Futter's actions and has banned him for life from their leagues.

Speaking after the sentence, Martin Head, secretary to the Suffolk FA, said it had ruled Futter's behaviour “totally unacceptable” and imposed the ban. He pledged that similar behaviour from any player would be handled “very severely”.

Simon Long, Suffolk FA referee development officer, said the case was “extreme”. But he said similar behaviour - including 13 assaults on referees in the past two seasons in Suffolk - was deterring future referees.

“I don't think this is a just a football problem it is wider problem in society with people not showing enough respect to those in authority,” he said.

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