The Malta Football Referees Association has instructed its members not to officiate any matches involving Sannat Lions, the current league leaders of Gozo’s Second Division, in protest at how one of its players had physically assaulted an assistant referee last weekend.
“The behaviour of some Sannat Lions FC supporters during this vicious and violent attack, which including throwing beer and spitting at the assistant referee while he was lying prostrate on the floor after getting assaulted by Antoine Camilleri is unacceptable,” the MFRA said in a statement. “Hours after this attack, the game officials were still receiving threatening messages on social media.”
“Therefore, in a show of solidarity with the game officials, the MFRA committee has ordered all its members to refuse to officiate games involving any squad of Sannat Lions FC with immediate effect.”
“These directives will remain in play until a counter-directive is issued. The MFRA is eagerly awaiting disciplinary steps to be taken by the MFA, the Gozo Football Association and Sannat Lions FC.”
“The MFRA’s message is clear. Any attack on one of us, no matter who the referee is and no matter what level he is officiating at, is an attack on all of us.”
Camilleri was arraigned in court on Sunday for assaulting assistant referee Andrea Pavia in the Gozo Division Two clash with Oratory Youths and was fined a paltry €100 and ordered not to approach any football ground for a year.
Sannat Lions also kicked him out from the club, fined him €400 and pledged that he will never play for them again. It also promised to investigate the alleged abuse by its supporters against referee Pavia as he lay prostrate on the floor.
Meanwhile, MFA President Bjorn Vassallo also pledged to lobby for the imposition of harsher penalties for abusing referees.
“The violent attack on a Malta FA match official during yesterday’s GFA Second Division League match is for me a very serious offence, equivalent to a corruption crime,” Vassallo said. “It has a very negative impact and casts a very bad shadow on the game of football, repercussions that reverberate far more than the paltry fine of €100 handed out to the perpetrator of this violent crime during a sports event at a public venue.”
Vassallo said the incident will only strengthen the MFA’s resolve to stand up against the leniency shown in serious cases.
“In the same way as we were the catalysts behind the changes in the legislation to fight corruption in sports, we will be advocating amendments to the laws and the disciplinary code to safeguard the sporting values,” he concluded.