I attended the League 2 fixture between Oxford United and Slumdon Town on Saturday 3rd March and was concerned with one particular incident involving the Slumdon player Matt Ritchie and the referee's response to the incident. In approximately the 43rd minute of the game, the ball went out for a goal kick to Oxford. The ballboy behind the goal retrieved the ball and was returning in to the Oxford goalkeeper ready to restart the game. This was clearly not done quickly enough for Matt Ritchie's liking as he ran up to the ballboy (who I believe is 14 years old), shoved him in the chest and knocked the ball from his hands. This incident occurred directly in front of the Oxford fans in what was already a fairly volatile atmosphere due to it being a local derby which also saw Oxford's striker, James Constable, sent off after 10 minutes. The incident with the ballboy clearly enraged the crowd and almost led to disorder.
Immediately following the clash with the ballboy, Ritchie was involved with a verbal confrontation with a couple of the Oxford players who had witnessed the incident. Ritchie was then cautioned by the referee, Graham Salisbury, showing a yellow card.
I would be interested to know for what offence Ritchie was cautioned by Mr Salisbury. To my mind, the altercation with the ballboy was a clear case of violent conduct. Violent Conduct is defined in Law 12 as \"using excessive force or brutality against a team-mate, spectator, match official or any other person\". Law 12 goes on to say that a player guilty of an offence of violent conduct MUST be sent off [my emphasis]. I fail to see how a player shoving a 14year old child in the chest in such a fashion (and in such an atmosphere) can be seen as anything other than violent conduct. My suspicion is that the referee did not actually witness the altercation with the ballboy and Ritchie was cautioned for the verbal exchange with the Oxford players. Therefore, I would be grateful if you could investigate this incident as a matter of urgency as to allow an assault on a child to be seen as merely a yellow card offence is a worrying precedent.
Many thanks in advance.
And this is their response, which doesn't actually answer the question:
Thank you for contacting The Football Association.
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. The FA has investigated and liaised with Oxford United on this matter. The player was cautioned by the Referee for the incident and has subsequently apologised to the satisfaction of the ballboy and Oxford United.
Gary Stonehouse | Customer Relations
The FA Group
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London, HA9 0WS
Postal address: Wembley Stadium, PO Box 1966, London, SW1P 9EQ
T +44 (0) 845 458 1966 | F+44 (0) 844 980 0666 |
www.TheFA.com , www.wembleystadium.com
I feel a follow up email coming on!