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Players kicked linesman to death

Six young footballers have been convicted of kicking to death a volunteer linesman after a game in the Netherlands.

They and the father of one of them were found guilty of manslaughter. The linesman was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked after a the match last December.

Judges in Lelystad sentenced the 50-year-old father to six years in prison. Five teenaged players were given two-year sentences in youth detention for their roles in the attack and another was sentenced to a year. A seventh player, age 15, was sentenced to 30 days detention for assault.

The attack took place last December in the Dutch city of Almere, after the home team Buitenboys drew 2-2 with Nieuw Sloten, which is based in a mostly immigrant neighbourhood of Amsterdam. All had insisted they were innocent. They have two weeks to appeal. Their lawyers had argued that the linesman, Richard Nieuwenhuizen, had an underlying medical condition that contributed to his death but forensic experts said he died as a result of the beating.

Judges said the young players acted together and gave them the highest sentences available. "The seriousness of the event, the lack of a clear reason for it, the terrible consequences, the fact that they haven't accepted responsibility for their acts and the enormous shock it caused throughout society and the entire football world meant that the minors received the maximum possible sentence," the court said.

Mr Nieuwenhuizen, 41, was officiating in a match that his son was playing in. He initially seemed to recover and shrugged off questions about whether he would make a complaint, but he later collapsed and died in hospital the following day.

The Netherlands' National Forensics Institute concluded he was killed as a result of injuries sustained during the attack.

The court said the father sentenced to six years had received a heavy punishment because "instead of setting a good example to the youths by criticising their behaviour he joined them in kicking and beating the linesman and has never accepted responsibility" for his actions.

Mr Nieuwenhuizen's death triggered a bout of soul-searching in Dutch football and beyond about the loss of respect for sports officials among youth players. "You can't imagine it happening," said Ajax coach Frank de Boer. "That boys of 15, 16 years short circuit like that. You wonder about the parenting."

Mr Nieuwenhuizen's sons said they hoped the convictions would send a message around the world that such attacks should not be tolerated in sport.

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