Player who punched ref given lifetime ban

Bridlington Free Press sport
Bridlington Free Press sport

A footballer who punched the referee who sent him off during a pre-season friendly in Bridlington has been given a lifetime ban.

Michael Clayton will not be able to appeal against the decision for at least 10 years after his assault while playing for Hilderthorpe FC against Lounge Bar in August.

The attack left match official Bob Ferguson with concussion and police launched an investigation into the incident before the East Riding County FA’s disciplinary committee met to decide its punishment.

A permanent suspension is not automatically given to footballers who assault match officials, but the county FA members decided last Wednesday that it was the most suitable punishment in this case.

Chief executive Adam Lowthorpe said: “Each case is judged on its merits. In this case, the contributing factors were the severity of the incident, the fact that the individual didn’t reply to any correspondence, show any remorse or attend any hearings.

“I think it’s a fair punishment. There will be no review for 10 years. On occasions in the past we have had people who have done something they regret at 18 or 19, and when they get to 28 or 29 and have a family, they are a different person.

“But we have to send out a message that this behaviour is not acceptable.”

Although Clayton had not responded to any correspondence, Lowthorpe praised the support the county FA had received from the Hilderthorpe club.

“The club has been very supportive and in no way does this reflect on them. They have expressed their regret and although we could have punished them, we thought it was important not to,” he added.

Clayton’s assault occurred at Matson Road playing fields on Saturday, August 31, as the two teams prepared for the Driffield League season.

A police statement said a player had hit referee Ferguson twice.

Assaults on referees remain relatively rare, especially given there can be 600 games per week taking place in the county.

Lowthorpe said: “We had an incident last season where the referee showed a red card and the player flicked it out of his hand, and another who squirted a water bottle at a referee. They are both classed as assaulting a match official, but it is obvious that there is a big, big difference between that and what happened in this incident.”

Work continues to protect referees and to ensure the environment at football matches at grass roots level does not boil over.

Lowthorpe added: “It is hard to get match officials because it is such a difficult job to do but local football recognises that behaviour like this towards a referee is simply unacceptable.

“We have the FA’s Respect campaign but there is always work to be done to ensure that football can be enjoyed by all parties.

“By and large, there is a great atmosphere at our clubs.”

It is thought that although Clayton is permanently suspended from football, the ban does not apply to other sports.