A football player has been given a one-year jail sentence and a five-year ban from entering any football ground – after pulling a KNIFE to threaten a referee.

The incident occurred during the Collerense v Rotlet third division fixture in the Air Europa league.

The act led to referees in the Baleares calling for action to bring attention to threats of violence against their profession.

The case against the unnamed player, who pulled out a knife and threatened the referee in 2021 – the second incident involving the player – having carried out a similar action in 2019 at the Ca Na Paulina field, ended in an appearance at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2023.

The player, who acknowledged the sentence for threatening the referee with a knife, has reached an agreement, both with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and with the private prosecution, exercised by the legal services of the FFIB (Federació de Futbol de les Illes Balears).

A FFIB statement said: “Since he was not someone with a federal license, he could not be sanctioned by the FFIB, but he did decide at the time to appear in the judicial process that was initiated against this person as a private accusation.

“The individual was detained by the police and is a repeat offender.

“The FFIB will always fight for the protection of the refereeing collective and to eradicate verbal and physical violence on the soccer fields of the islands,” the Balearic Federation added.

Request for Police intervention refused

History of threats to referees in Spain included one referee, who said: “I could see halfway through the match that things were heating up.  It was a derby.

“I asked the local police to intervene, but they refused, saying it was a job for the Mossos’ the Catalan regional police force. “When the game ended, a player kicked me in the head.”

Over 20,000 football fixtures are played in Spain’s regional lower and amateur leagues every weekend.

A state commission was set up to investigate violence, racism, homophobia and intolerance in sport following 115 attacks during the 2015-16 season, a 47% rise from the previous year.

Cases of a referee having had two teeth broken, after a player hit him, led to a two years ban.  Referees have been pushed, spat on, and insulted: “You get used to it,” said a referee in the Basque Country’s Primera Regional league.

One referee said he parked his car away from football grounds at village matches, in case players or fans came looking for him after the game: “They will attack you or damage your car,” he said.

He said that on one occasion, a player almost ran him over after a game: “He came to a stop a metre from me and my assistants as we were crossing the road.  I reported him, but my assistants weren’t accepted as witnesses. I think he was fined €30,” he said.

And it’s not just in the senior leagues that referees see red.

Parents watching their children play often set a bad example – both in Spain and the UK.

One official has called for zero tolerance: “There are junior leagues where the referee will stop the game if a parent starts screaming insults from the sidelines.  I think that is a good idea.”

Kids ‘war’

Juan Antonio Álvarez, a referee for almost three decades in the Cadiz area, said football has always been high risk for referees: “In one game I overheard a coach telling the kids that this was ‘war’.  It’s no surprise that they subsequently insulted the referee.”

Although a plethora of referee incidents are reported, thousands of fixtures are played without any incidents.

Women’s football has made big strides during the last decade with the success of The Three Lionesses winning the Euro 2022 championship.

Also, women are officiating in more fixtures, both as referees and assistants in the 21st century.

Go do the Dishes

Marta Galego, a referee in the Catalan soccer federation, recalled she stopped a match after a supporter told her to ‘go do the dishes.’

The offender was escorted out of the stadium to applause.  Galego was following the guidelines of the Catalan federation’s Cero insultos en la grada policy – Zero insults in the stands – which allows referees to stop soccer matches, if fans refuse to moderate their language.

The number of female referees in England is up by 72% from 2016 and the FA now has over 2,000 women officiating across all levels.

Amy Fearn has been refereeing from the age of 14, becoming the first woman to referee a football league match after the initial referee was injured. Fearn was also the first woman to officiate an FA Cup main draw match.

Sian Massey-Ellis has been a Premier league assistant/4th official since 2010. Massey-Ellis also ran the line at the 2007 women’s world cup and 2009 women’s European championships.