An island football referee assaulted by a Lochs FC player has resigned and his colleagues are boycotting club matches, in a row which threatens to overshadow the climax of the island football season.
Tomorrow’s (Friday July 27th) Eilean an Fhraoich cup final and other matches have already been postponed and there’s no agreement between island footie supporters on what should happen next.
The referee was assaulted by the 32-year-old player in Stornoway town centre in the early hours of Sunday July 15th. The player was arrested, charged with assault and kept in custody over the weekend. He appeared in court the following day and was fined for the offence, which is no longer a police matter.
But the referee also raised the matter with the Lewis and Harris Football Association, who yesterday (Wednesday July 25th) issued a full account of their position. They expected action by the disciplinary committee of the Scottish Amateur Football Association (SAFA) and said they could not force a suspension of the player in question.
The SAFA is due to meet today (Thursday July 26th) to discuss the question. The case will be heard by the SAFA’s executive and finance committee who will decide whether the case is to be heard by the SAFA and, if it is, a decision as to which sub-committee would deal with the matter. The SAFA’s national disciplinary committee only deal with on-the-field offences, so it will not be hearing this case.
Meanwhile the referee who was assaulted has resigned, and his colleagues have individually stated that they will not referee a match where Lochs FC plays. Their statement says: “To clarify, each individual referee is currently unavailable for Lochs FC games until the matter is resolved.”
Lochs FC is standing by their squad member. They said: “The club does not intend to take any action against the player as we have received representation from him indicating that the matter was in no way related to football but completely personal and they now believe that matter concluded as it has been dealt with by Police Scotland.”
But the row has split fans, with some saying the matter has been dealt with and should be left to rest and others insisting that Lochs suspend the player concerned. One supporter commented: “No player should be bigger than Island football. All teams and communities are affected here”. While another said: “The referees shouldn't have to worry about going socialising on the weekend to find a player confronts him for a decision that he disagreed with. Well done to the referees for making a stand.”
With the situation in stalemate, games featuring Lochs are now marked as ‘postponed’ in the Lewis and Harris FA calendar. They include last Monday’s (July 23rd) league match against Carloway and tomorrow’s eagerly anticipated final of the Eilean an Fhraoich cup, due to be played against Westside. Other fixtures in doubt include early round matches of the Lewis Moldova Cup, starting next Monday (July 30th) and climactic league matches in the Lewis and Harris league, where Lochs currently sit third in the table.