Belfast Telegraph

Call for action as NI referee hit on head by missile

Body in plea to Uefa to protect its officials

Referee Arnold Hunter down on the ground after being struck by an object thrown from the crowd
Referee Arnold Hunter down on the ground after being struck by an object thrown from the crowd
Referee Arnold Hunter
Referee Arnold Hunter was struck by an object thrown from the crowd
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A referees chief has called for European football's governing body to do more to protect officials after a Northern Ireland referee was hit by a missile during a game.

Arnold Hunter was struck by the object thrown from the crowd during a Europa League qualifier in Romania on Thursday.

Uefa has launched an investigation following the incident, which left the Enniskillen referee needing medical treatment.

It occurred in the final minute of extra-time in the second round qualifier between Romanian side Universitatea Craiova and Hungarian team Honved.

Trevor Moutray, who is head of refereeing at the Irish Football Association, voiced concern at the incident.

He said: "Refereeing is a difficult job and sometimes commentators would do well to remember that, as often match officials are an easy target for often misguided or plain incorrect analysis.

"Objective and accurate analysis is fair enough as match officials must be accountable, but what happened in Romania is a timely reminder that officials must be protected and valued as an integral part of the game."

With the tie level at 0-0, a brawl broke out between players and a smoke bomb was thrown from the stands.

Mr Hunter, who has been taking charge of matches at European level for the last eight years, was then struck by an object as he attempted to separate players.

The 39-year-old required medical attention but, though an ambulance was called, was able to walk off unaided.

After a 35-minute delay Belfast fourth official Jamie Robinson took charge of the final minute of stoppage time and the penalty shootout, which home side Universitatea Craiova won 3-1.

Following the unsavoury incident, Uefa said they will be reviewing reports from the officials.

"We are awaiting reports from the match delegate and the referee before deciding whether to take any action," said a spokesman.

Hungarian club Honved condemned the "scandalous scenes", and branded the resumption of the match "unacceptable".

The IFA Referees' Association said colleagues had watched the incident "in disbelief".

The IFA confirmed Mr Hunter and his colleagues were "fine" and on their way back to Northern Ireland.

"This matter is now the subject of a Uefa investigation so the IFA is unable to comment on the events," a spokesperson said.

"However, referee Arnold Hunter and his three colleagues are fine and are now making their way home."

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