Coventry & Warwickshire

Nuneaton and District Sunday League referees strike over violence

A group of Sunday league referees have refused to officiate games in protest at the violence they face from players.

The strike follows a Nuneaton and District Sunday League (NDSFL) player being banned for five years for punching a referee in the face.

The NDSFL said 16 referees had refused to take charge of Sunday's games, leaving around half of the matches to be refereed by club officials.

A spokesman said NDSFL clubs were due to meet to discuss player conduct.

Referee Craig Ward needed hospital treatment after being punched in the face four times by a player who had just been sent off in a match in Bedworth in September.

The player was suspended from playing for five years by the Birmingham County Football Association (BCFA).

Warwickshire Police said it was investigating the incident.

The BCFA said it was also investigating a match between Park United and Crown FC in which a player had his jaw broken in an "off the ball incident".

'Immediately removed'

Paul Field from the Referee's Association said it was "very worried" about recent reports of violence in matches.

He said the incidents were "causing undue distress to referees who are doing this as their hobby".

"They should be able to take part on a Sunday morning without fear of being attacked," he said.

The NDSFL spokesman said the league totally understood the reasons for the strike and that it "was appalled as they were" by the attacks.

Vice chairman Andy Baggott said the league had "warned them if there is any more violence or abuse towards referees, clubs will be immediately removed from the league".

He said that there was "a code of conduct that clubs should be following anyway".

He added that he hoped the referees would be back officiating games on Sunday.

The NDSFL spokesman said the league was planning a meeting with the Referee's Association and the BCFA next month to discuss harsher penalties for offending players.

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