Referees boycott Northern Ireland club's games after assault claim
A referees' association has imposed a boycott on all games involving a Co Antrim junior football team after match day officials were allegedly targeted in a violent incident.
The North East Ulster Referees Association (NEURA) has advised its members to reject any appointment to officiate at fixtures for Ballymena side Harryville Homers FC until the "serious" matter has been resolved.
However, the club has stated that, whilst it is aware of the incident, it has not received any correspondence from either the league secretary or the County Antrim Football Association (CAFA).
The Ballymena Saturday Morning League (BSML) game between Harryville and Abbeyview FC on October 5 at Wakehurst Playing Fields descended into chaos after the full-time whistle. A Harryville player had been sent off for dissent just before half-time.
It has been alleged that a spectator, who was supporting Harryville Homers, walked on to the pitch after his side's 2-1 defeat and attempted to punch and headbutt the match day official.
The referee was escorted to the changing facilities before the supporter allegedly entered the changing room and attempted to punch the official a second time and punched another referee.
As the match official returned to his vehicle with an escort, the man allegedly threatened to kill him if he returned to the playing fields.
It is also claimed that as the referee attempted to drive away, the man drove across his car to block him in before signalling a gun gesture towards the official.
The secretary of NEURA subsequently sent an email to "all allocated Ballymena Saturday Morning League referees" on Sunday night.
The email stated that the alleged assault had been reported to both the CAFA and the Irish Football Association (IFA), and advised all referees to refuse any request to officiate at a Harryville Homers fixture.
"The alleged incidents are so serious that it is the advice of NEURA that any official receiving an appointment for a Harryville Homers game should reject it immediately from now and until this matter is resolved by the appropriate authority," read the statement.
Harryville responded by stating that it was unaware of the email sent out by NEURA and made it clear that no players or officials from the club were involved in the alleged incident.
"Therefore, we think it's only prudent that we wait to hear of any charges before we make further comment," the club added.
A spokesperson for the IFA said that if a complaint has been made, the footballing body's disciplinary committee will deal with the matter.
Meanwhile, the PSNI confirmed that police received a report of an assault in the Wakehurst Park area of Ballymena on Saturday, October 5, and that its enquiries are ongoing.
BSML secretary Brian Montgomery added that until the league receives the relevant reports or receives a request for reports into the incident then it cannot act, as it may be subject to a PSNI investigation.