Referee allegedly abused at Fittleworth Reserves v Amberley FC

A ‘HIGH-IMPACT’ football match in Fittleworth has seen spectators criticised for abusing a female referee.

The game between Fittleworth Reserves and Amberley FC saw referee Samantha Leo leave the game in tears, according to chairman of Fittleworth FC Mike Stanbridge, who was at the game.

“All I know is the referee was apparently racially abused by one of the Amberley spectators after the game,” he said.

He said he had not personally heard anything, but added: “If that’s the case we will support whatever she does.

“There were some very angry Amberley spectators there and she was in tears when she left.”

He also said a player from Amberley was sent off after the game for violent conduct.

Amberley FC club secretary Matt Johnson said: “We as a club pride ourselves on being a professional and well-respected football club within the district; we have the utmost morals and portray ourselves in a very positive manner.

“It was a high-impact and physically-demanding derby game, and tensions were high due to the week previously when a Fittleworth player had dislocated his knee causing the game to be abandoned.”

He said the club came ‘with a small support of children and pensioners’ who he said disagreed with some of the referee’s decisions, ‘like any team support would’.

He said to be accused of verbally abusing the referee made him ‘feel sick’, because he was standing on the sidelines and there was no more than the usual banter.

He said a group not involved with either club were present at the match on on Saturday, February 23.

“I was told by the referee to speak to my support because it was not in line with the FA’s Respect policy, but I didn’t just speak to my support, I also shouted at these individuals and I can only assume because I was doing the right thing and telling these other individuals to shut up, they assumed they were a part of our support,” he said.

“I can only imagine that because of the referee’s lack of ability this may have been portrayed as abuse but I can most certainly tell you that this is not how we act on a football pitch.”

Mr Stanbridge, of Fittleworth FC, said ‘there was no animosity’.

“What I would like to say is the bulk of the Amberley team came into the bar afterwards and had a couple of beers.”

He said Fittleworth had not made a complaint to Sussex County FA.

“The referee dealt with it as she felt right. At the end of the day, as a club we can’t condone anything like that.”

A spokesman for Sussex County FA said it would be investigating.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said they received a third-hand report from a member of the public regarding a possible ‘verbal altercation’, but there was no call for police to attend.

Amberley FC lost the West Sussex Football League Division 5 Central game 3-2.