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A look at violent incidents against referees around the world

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A look at violent incidents against referees around the world
December 12, 2023

MADRID (AP) — The Turkish Football Federation suspended all league games on Tuesday after the president of a first-division soccer club punched a referee in the face.

MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca was arrested after attacking referee Halil Umut Meler following a 1-1 draw in a Super Lig game against Caykur Rizespor. Meler fell to the ground and also was kicked in a melee that occurred after fans invaded the pitch when Rizespor scored a last-minute equalizer.

Here is a look at other incidents of violence against referees in soccer and other sports around the world:


Brazil’s sports court suspended the president of fourth-division club Sergipe for 30 days after he came onto the pitch and punched a referee in a Brazilian Cup match against top-flight team Botafogo in March.

In a Colombian league derby between first-division clubs Deportivo Cali and Atletico Nacional in August, a linesman had to be treated by doctors after being hit in the head by an object thrown from the stands.

Last month, an official with Brazilian club Corinthians tried to break into the VAR room during his team’s 1-0 victory at Gremio in a Brazilian league match after one of Corinthians' players was sent off.


English referee Anthony Taylor and his family had to be escorted away by security at an airport in Hungary after outraged Roma fans directed insults at him and threw a chair in his direction following this year’s Europa League final.

Roma largely blamed Taylor for its penalty shootout loss to Sevilla, with coach José Mourinho lashing out at him in the post-match news conference. Mourinho also was seen insulting Taylor with a series of expletives in the garage of the Puskas Arena in Budapest as his team prepared to depart the stadium.


Several players of a women’s soccer team in Congo were reportedly suspended after they attacked a referee who did not award them a penalty kick in a game in February.

Video footage online showed the referee trying to run for cover as the players and other team members chased after him.


Last month, two teenagers were arrested in England for alleged misogynistic chants against a female referee in the second-division match between Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday.

Reports said police officers took action during the game after hearing the 17-year-old teenagers insult the referee.


Spanish referees in May released a statement calling for the end of violence against them following incidents in lower-division games.

One fan tried to break into the officials’ locker room in one game, while a group of people wearing hoods and covering their faces made death threats and punched the vehicle used by the refereeing crew in another match.

The incidents came after a referee in a youth game was assaulted by a group of players who waited after he left the stadium to go home.

The referees said there have been more than 100 cases of some type of assault against them in Spain.


The television match official from the Rugby World Cup final this year stepped away from the international game “for the foreseeable future” after a “torrent of criticism and abuse online.”

English official Tom Foley made a series of big calls in the title match between New Zealand and South Africa in October in Paris.

The referee of the match — Wayne Barnes of England — had announced his expected retirement while expressing concerns about abuse he and his family received on social media for years.

In another rugby incident in 2002, a fan ran onto the field and tried to attack the referee of a big test match between South African and New Zealand.


Greece suspended its soccer league in 2018 after the gun-toting owner of PAOK Thessaloniki marched onto the field following a disputed goal.

Ivan Savvidis walked onto the field twice accompanied by bodyguards and appearing to carry a pistol in a holster around his waist.

PAOK thought it had scored in the 90th minute against AEK Athens, but the referee disallowed the goal for offside after initially confirming it. The match was abandoned.


Swedish referee Anders Frisk retired after receiving death threats following a Champions League match between Chelsea and Barcelona in 2005, when Chelsea coach José Mourinho accused him of benefitting Barcelona.

A year earlier in Rome, Frisk was bloodied by an object thrown from the stands in another Champions League match that had to be called off.

Another referee from Sweden said he received death threats after awarding a disputed penalty for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League in 2008. Martin Hansson said he had to contact his mobile telephone provider and ask for a secret number.


In a qualifying match for the 2008 European Championship between Denmark and Sweden, a drunk Danish fan tried to punch the referee in the final minutes with the score tied at 3-3. Sweden was awarded a 3-0 win because of the attack.


A weekend soccer player was sentenced to at least eight years in prison in 2015 in the United States for a punch that killed a referee. Bassel Saad pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, admitting he punched John Bieniewicz as he was preparing to call a penalty that would have ejected Saad. Bieniewicz died two days later.

In 2012, a Dutch man working as a linesman during his son’s youth soccer match died after being beaten and kicked by several soccer players following a game.

In a non-league competition in France this year, referee Jérémy Chrestia was headbutted during a game.

In Argentina, Alexander Williams Tapón was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head days after images of him assaulting a referee in an amateur match went viral. Police believe he committed suicide. The referee was taken unconscious to a hospital after Tapón punched and kicked his head.


Associated Press writers Steve Douglas, Mauricio Savarese, Gerald Imray, Samuel Petrequin, Jerome Pugmire, Graham Dunbar, Karl Ritter and Andrew Dampf contributed to this report.


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