Published: 14:00, 01 November 2021
| Updated: 07:29, 02 November 2021
A Sunday League player from Kent has received a five-year ban from football after admitting an assault on a referee.
Match official Oliver Jackson reported that he had been punched in the face by Ashley Cook, who was playing for Swallows Rise 93 Reserves.
The match took place at Barnfields Rec in Chatham between Swallows Rise 93 Reserves and Kent Marina Gunners on September 12, 2021. Mr Cook had just been sent off when the alleged attack took place, with a single punch to the face. The match was subsequently abandoned.
Mr Cook was charged by the Kent FA with a breach of FA Rule E3 assault or attempted assault on a match official, a charge that the player accepted.
Details of the offence have just been published by the Football Association. The match was a Junior League Trophy tie in the Medway Area Sunday League.
The FA’s disciplinary commission considered written statements in support of the charge, with referee Mr Jackson stating that he had suffered physical damage to his face, lip and a tooth, which was chipped. A photo was shown of a swollen lip and damaged tooth.
Among the evidence stated in the report was a text message from Mr Cook apologising for his actions.
The referee, who was checked over by a surgeon playing for the Gunners, said he felt he had suffered symptoms of mild concussion although there was no medical evidence to back that up.
In an exchange of emails between Jonny Ricketts of the Kent FA and Rob Blyth at Swallows, it was noted that Mr Cook took “full responsibility for his actions” and that he regretted it instantly and that his actions “were a disgraceful act.” The incident was described as a "two minute moment" where he lost his temper, by the player. He also hoped the incident didn’t deter the official from refereeing.
The red card came about after two bookings, the first for a challenge and the second for kicking the ball away.
The conclusion of the evidence said that the commission “appreciates Mr Cook has apologised on several occasions for assaulting the referee. The commission considers Mr Cook to have genuine remorse. Mr Cook has admitted the charge and has agreed to step down from his role within the Swallows team.”
Days after the attack on the official an open letter from Kent FA referee development officer Nick Dunn was published, calling for action after seeing a huge decline in officials this season, citing a number of serious incidents.
Sanctions for a breach of the FA Rule E3 assault or attempted assault on a match official range from five to 10 years. Ten-year suspensions are for causing serious injury and the commission did not consider the referee had suffered serious injury in this case.
The commission considered a previous offence in the 2017/18 season for improper conduct towards a match official which resulted in a three-match ban.
Along with the five-year suspension which was decided, the club have been handed seven penalty points towards their disciplinary total while Mr Cook must attend a face to face education programme. There is a right to appeal the decisions.