A REFEREE had to abandon a stormy under-14s football match over fears for his safety, it has been claimed.
The bad-blooded cup tie between Hunterfield Boys Club and Leith Athletic on Sunday was called off with 15 minutes remaining as tensions rose amid controversial refereeing decisions with both sides accused of foul-mouthed abuse and dangerous tackles.
Hunterfield manager Graeme Reynolds stormed on to the pitch to confront the referee following one particularly ferocious challenge on his 13-year-old striker.
Leith Athletic players alleged that opposition fans had been screaming abuse at them throughout the first half.
But an eyewitness at the game said trouble “began to brew” towards the end of the first half when the referee had words with the Hunterfield coach, and some spectators, for questioning his decisions.
“Things came to a boiling point when, in the space of a few minutes, two horrendous tackles were made by players from each side,” he said.
Mr Reynolds said words had been exchanged between both sets of fans, players and coaching staff during the heated last-16 match in the Sportsassist South-East Region Cup.
“It was a typical cup tie but the atmosphere wasn’t that bad,” he said.
“All parents and coaches on our sideline were really well behaved and I was the only one to crack up after seeing that tackle.
“It was a really bad one on a 13-year-old kid that could have stopped him playing football. It was just horrendous.”
Mr Reynolds said he was incensed that the Leith Athletic player who committed the foul had threatened his striker just moments before the dangerous challenge.
“I have been involved in football at a high standard all my life and never seen a tackle as bad as that – it made my stomach turn,” he said.
“I ran right on the park because I thought my player’s leg had been broken and was shouting at the ref ‘That’s ridiculous after what you have heard him say’.
“I grabbed my laddie who was screaming and got him off the park and when I went up to speak to the ref he said he was abandoning the game because he feared for his own safety.
“There was nothing said against the referee so I was very surprised at that. All he had to do was let the game calm down, send the player off and if he wasn’t happy with me he could send me off as well.”
Asked if he felt the game should have been abandoned, Mr Reynolds said: “The standard of refereeing was shocking and I think his inexperience caused a lot of the problems.”
The manager of Leith Athletic 1998 and the South-East Region Youth Football association declined to comment.