Match abandoned after player attacks referee

James Gordon

A National Conference League match between Milford and Oulton Raiders was abandoned on Thursday night after a player attacked the referee.

Oulton were leading the match 8-0 shortly before half-time when a Milford player was shown a yellow card by referee Joe Stearne – he was then subsequently red carded for dissent, and according to reports “punched” the match official.

Players from both sides came to the aid of the referee and the players, staff and fans of Milford were quick to condemn the actions of their player.

An RFL spokesperson said: “The RFL received reports of this incident on Thursday evening. Our initial priority is the health and well-being of the match official involved, and we are grateful to the Milford club officials for their support following the incident.

“The offending player will be dealt with through the usual disciplinary processes, working with the NCL.”

Stearne is a grade 1 official and is receiving support from the RFL’s match officials department, while Rugby League Cares’ support is also there if necessary.

A disciplinary investigation will now take place via the appropriate procedures set out in the RFL’s Operational Rules, with the National Conference League dealing with the case using their disciplinary panel.

The player has been stood down from playing duties pending an “internal investigation” according to Milford, who will also fully co-operate with the wider investigation taking place.

A club statement added: “First and foremost we send our best wishes to the referee involved.

“The player has been involved at our club from the juniors and we have never witnessed anything like this from him in 20 years.

“That said, our club is built on strong foundations which absolutely include ‘RESPECT’ and such behaviour will not be tolerated in any way.”

Less than 10 miles separate the two clubs, who are both playing in League D of the revised NCL competition this season.

Milford have won just one of their 10 games to date, while Oulton have fared slightly better with three wins from 11.

The Raiders were celebrating the relatively unique and special occasion of a father and son duo – Andy and Harvey Williamson – taking to the field together for the first time.

An Oulton statement said: “The game was played in great spirits by all up to the point of the incident. Oulton Raiders and Milford Marlins have always and will continue to have a good relationship.

“Whilst we condemn the act of striking the referee by one of the Milford players we do not feel this reflects the nature and values of Milford Marlins. One persons actions cannot reflect a club that has had a long standing good reputation in the amateur game.

“The Chairman of Milford was messaging our team manager into the early hours of the night discussing and apologising for the incident which shows them as a caring and honest club which they are.

“As with other sports amateur Rugby League has gone through a tough period with Coronavirus and we hope incidents like this don’t deter others from wanting to play our great game.

“We pride our game of Rugby League on respect for all and been a family friendly game.”