Footballer banned after 'assaulting' ref

AN INVESTIGATION is under way after a referee was allegedly assaulted by a player at a local league football match.

Russell Claydon

AN INVESTIGATION is under way after a referee was allegedly assaulted by a player at a local league football match.

The Ridgeons League Premier Division game between Harwich and Parkeston and Kirkley and Pakefield on Saturday had to be abandoned after a player allegedly struck the match official.

It came on the same weekend that police were called to reports of fighting in the crowd at a match hosted by Ipswich-based Whitton United - and at a time when the Football Association (FA) is spearheading a campaign, Respect, to crack down on violent behaviour and abuse at football matches at all levels.

Martin Head, chief executive of Suffolk FA, who is now overseeing an investigation into both incidents, said: “These were totally deplorable incidents and if the situations are found to be as people are stating at this point in time then we will come down hard on the perpetrators.”

Essex Police are conducting enquiries into the incident at Harwich on Saturday afternoon, after which the referee abandoned the game, claiming he feared for his safety.

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It has emerged that Lee Gilman, a striker for Kirkley and Pakefield, has been suspended from the club.

The ex-Norwich City trainee was allegedly involved in an altercation with the referee Adam Crysell, from Braintree, after he was shown a red card for dissent.

Tony Armstrong, a former chairman and manager of Harwich and Parkeston, said the confrontation came after Mr Gilman contested a throw-in decision.

Harwich subsequently went on to score and Mr Gilman was later sent off for dissent after allegedly arguing with officials.

“The referee locked himself in the dressing room and was not prepared to come out till the player had left the ground,” Mr Armstrong said.

“I have been involved in game 40 years and I have never seen anything like that.

“Everybody was just in shock. It is virtually unheard of to see a semi-professional player strike the referee.”

A statement issued on the north Suffolk club's website after the game said: “Kirkley and Pakefield FC would like to apologise to the referee and his assistants at this afternoon's game at Harwich and Parkeston for the behaviour of one of our players.

“This is conduct that cannot be condoned and the player in question has been suspended by the club with immediate effect.”

The Essex FA said Mr Crysell did not want to speak after his “harrowing experience”.

Mr Gilman could not be contacted for comment last night.

On the same afternoon, Suffolk police were called to Whitton United's home ground in Old Norwich Road, Ipswich, to reports that trouble had flared in the crowd during the match against Ely City.

But a spokeswoman for the force said when the officers arrived they could not find anything that could not be dealt with by the club.

Ian Hart, Whitton's press officer, said a scuffle had broken out between the parents of rival players which he described as “childish”.

The match was stopped and the police were called, but one of the two parents were quickly escorted out of the ground and the match was able to resume, Mr Hart said.