Referee is 'fine' after incident that caused Southern Combination match abandonment

The referee who had to abandon an SCFL game today after an incident involving a player has told a concerned league boss he's fine - and can't wait to get back in the middle.

The Southern Combination chairman has been speaking after today's match abandonment
The Southern Combination chairman has been speaking after today's match abandonment

Ref Mark Spence told SCFL chairman Steve Nealgrove he had wanted to carry on with the Dorking Wanderers Reserves v Epsom and Ewell game after an incident which has led to an Epsom player being immediately released by his club.

Division one of the SCFL comprises 15 sides from Sussex plus three in Surrey - including the two involved in today's abandoned game.

But his assistants convinced him abandoning the game was the right thing to do - and now the league and the FA await the referee's report to enable the FA to conduct their investigation into what happened.

Video posted online shows unsavoury scenes that broke out in the second half when the referee dealt with a discretion by the Epsom player. A number of other players and club officials were involved in trying to calm things down. Epsom quickly released a statement condemning what had happened and apologising to hosts Dorking and to the match officials.

Nealgrove told us he was made aware of the incident and the abandonment soon after it happened - and speaking in genral terms, he said he supported life bans for any player guilty of assaulting or attempting to assault a match official.

Nealgrove said: "I spoke to the official himself to check that he was physically and mentally fine and he said he was. He told me he'd felt able to carry on with the game after the incident but his assistants convinced him abandonment was the right thing to do, which we as a league would agree with. Mark (the referee) told me he was looking forward to officiating his next game, which is great to hear.

"I also spoke to officials from both clubs and by the time I spoke to Epsom and Ewell they had already dealt with it swiftly in releasing the player and issuing a statement apologising. I know their officials went into the Dorking officials and apologised too.

"It was a totally unacceptable incident that has happened at a time when there is a national shortage of officials. Incidents like this need to be punished - firmly. In my view, any player found guilty of assaulting or attempting to assault a match official should be banned for life without the right of appeal.

"We as a league go a long way to support match officials and I hope the FA deal with this incident firmly. We are already struggling to find enough referees for step five, six and seven games - some clubs are having to provide their own officials for some games - and incidents like this only harm attempts to maintain numbers."

It is possible the FA may charge Epsom over the incident as well as punishing the player.