More than 2,000 referees to strike this weekend, says official Ryan Hampson

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'Spat at and punched' - life as a referee

More than 2,000 amateur referees will go on strike this weekend, according to a teenage official who says he has been "headbutted, spat at and punched".

Ryan Hampson set up a campaign on Facebook calling on officials across the UK to boycott grassroots games in protest at the treatment they receive.

The 18-year-old says the Football Association's procedures to protect referees are not strong enough.

"At times it has been awful," said Hampson, who referees in Manchester.

"I have been headbutted, I've been spat at and I've been punched, just to name a few things that have happened."

Hampson, who began refereeing three and a half years ago, says threats of violence are not uncommon.

"I had a match where one team was awful all game and it got to a point where I had to be escorted off the pitch by the 11 players on the other team," he told BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast.

"They had to get in a circle and escort me physically, because the other team wouldn't let me go."

But Hampson says such incidents are not always upheld when taken to appeal at regional FA branches.

"Another game, when I got hit, the other manager was there and gave the same version of events as me and it got 'not proven'. I don't know how," he added.

"I put all my hope in the FA really."

The FA said that every season, on average, just short of 4,000 referees decide not to re-register, with a small portion citing dissent from players and parents as a contributing factor.

It said 880,000 youth and adult affiliated grassroots football matches were played last season in England, with 111 proven cases of assaults.

"Under FA regulations, this means those offenders are now banned from all football activity," an FA statement said.

It added: "It was valuable to meet Ryan last month. He raised some important points and we look forward to maintaining this dialogue."

The governing body also said it had given the Respect campaign some "renewed focus" by appointing a dedicated campaign manager to continue the work.

Manchester FA has announced it will provide more support to referees, visit them within 24 hours of an incident and report any assaults to police.

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