Two Trinidad and Tobago refereeing bodies have urged officials to boycott a minor league competition in La Brea with immediate effect, after referee Michael London was assaulted immediately following a game yesterday evening.
London, who is one of the country’s elite referees, is at the San Fernando General Hospital at present with bruised ribs and a hairline fracture of the jaw. A report has been filed with the relevant police station.
London is the uncle of fellow referee Devon London and Pleasantville Secondary women’s assistant coach Brian London, who is also a former national extempo champion and a five-time Calypso Monarch finalist.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association (TTFRA) condemned the “cowardly attack” and urged the TTFA’s Referees Committee to boycott the La Brea competition.
“The TTFRA hereby strongly advise that the TTFA Referees Committee instruct match officials to immediately cease providing referee service to this particular league,” stated a release from TTFRA general secretary Boni Bishop. “Also that suitable arrangements be put in place to ensure that registered officials only service sanctioned competitions, where organisers have agreed on proper terms of service—including that provision be made for the supply of three match officials at least, along with security arrangements for said match officials.”
Ironically, Bishop is the appointment committee chairperson of the Referees Committee while Joseph Taylor is president of both refereeing bodies, which suggests that the principles of the Referees Association were instructing themselves in their capacities as Referees Committee executive members.
Wayne Caesar, who is head of the TTFA’s Refereeing Department—which is the implementation arm of the Referees Committee—went a step further, as he urged referees to stay away from minor league competitions altogether.
“On behalf of the Department, I sent out a communique to our referees that they should not referee in any league that is not sanctioned by the TTFA,” Caesar told Wired868. “[And] I wrote all our zones and told them not go back to the [La Brea] league. But right now, we are concentrating on the [health of the official].”
Wired868 understands that the two teams involved in the La Brea Off Season Football League match were Gonzales United, which featured ex-Trinidad and Tobago international Hughtun Hector, and Young Stars, which boasted several current Secondary School Football League (SSFL) stand-outs like Naparima College playmaker Judah St Louis and the Presentation College (San Fernando) duo of Jordan Riley and Omri Baird.
Gonzales were leading 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining when London awarded them a penalty.
The Young Stars defender who was penalised, according to an eyewitness, pushed London and was shown a straight red card. Then another player allegedly slapped the referee and all hell broke loose, as players, management and supporters supposedly rushed in to join in the attack.
Since minor league organisers usually hire only one trained official for matches—in an attempt to cut costs—London found himself at the centre of a field invasion and did not even have the support of colleagues.
The match was subsequently abandoned while the second match of a double-header at the venue never kicked off.
One video clip of the incident showed London being attacked near to the street as hooligans rushed to join in the melee and spectators wondered loud whether he would survive the assault.
In another clip, patrons pelt London with plastic bottles while a spectator is seen wielding a cutlass—some eye witnesses claimed that the cutlass belonged to London who reached for it when he was attacked, only to have it taken from him. Both the referee’s arms were restrained, which prevented him from fighting back, while he was at one stage held in a headlock.
Fortunately, London did make it out alive and is in a stable condition at the San Fernando General Hospital.
The TTFRA believes that the refereeing community should continue to support minor league football—but only if certain conditions are met to ensure a safe work environment for officials.
“While match officials understand their role in supporting activities which bring about overall improvement to community life,” stated Bishop, “the community itself has to understand that it has to protect these members who serve them.”
At present, minor league competitions offer the only competitive adult football in the country and Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence admitted that even national players are taking part.
For officials, it is a chance to earn some extra money until the local domestic competitions get going again. Already four months into 2018, there has been no activity yet from the Pro League, Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) or zonal competitions.
Callum Marshall, an executive member of the La Brea football committee, offered apologises to London and vowed to cooperate with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in its investigations.
“We would like to issue a sincere apology to Mr Michael London, his family and the Trinidad and Tobago Referee Association by extension,” stated Marshall. “We stand by you at this difficult point in time Michael London. A full investigation into this matter has been launched by the league in conjunction with the TTPS from which we expect a swift and just outcome.”
However, Caesar suggested that minor league competitions, which fall outside the umbrella of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), are just not worth the risk.
“They are going at their own risk,” said Caesar. “If you prefer to go for $100 and your life is at stake, then I can’t hold your hand. Everybody’s big [enough to make their own decisions].
“I give my own advice as to what you should or shouldn’t do. If they go contrary to that, I can’t be held responsible.”
Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association statement:
It has come to the attention of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Referees Association that spectators at a minor league match played in La Brea on Thursday 19 April violently attacked the referee who officiated at the match. This cowardly attack resulted in said match official having to be hospitalised from his injuries.
The TTFRA hereby strongly advise that the TTFA Referees Committee instruct match officials to immediately cease providing referee service to this particular league. Also that suitable arrangements be put in place to ensure that registered officials only service sanctioned competitions where organisers have agreed on proper terms of service, including that provision be made for the supply of three match officials at least along with security arrangements for said match officials.
We hope for a full and speedy recovery of the referee and trust that the necessary punitive action will be taken by the relevant authorities against the perpetrator/s of this dastardly and criminal act.
While match officials understand their role in supporting activities which bring about overall improvement to community life, the community itself has to understand that it has to protect these members who serve them.
TTFA Refereeing Department statement:
Please be advised that a referee was brutally assaulted in the La Brea Football League last night, 19 April 2018, which resulted in the referee being hospitalised with serious injuries.
The Refereeing Department is advising that any referee who officiates in leagues that are not sanctioned by the Refereeing Department and the Referees Committee are doing so at their own risk.
The Refereeing Department is advising that referees should not officiate in the La Brea Football League as this is not a competition sanctioned by either the Refereeing Department or the Referees Committee.
Please be guided accordingly.
La Brea Off Season Football League statement:
We, the organising committee of the La Brea Off Season League, would like to make it clear that the unfortunate incidents of last night, Thursday 19 April 2018, which has been circulating via social media are not in keeping with the high standards we always strive to maintain in our community league and is in no way a reflection of our league and our community.
We would like to issue a sincere apology to Mr Michael London, his family and the Trinidad and Tobago Referee Association by extension. We stand by you at this difficult point in time Michael London.
A full investigation into this matter has been launched by the league in conjunction with the TTPS from which we expect a swift and just outcome.
At this time please understand for purposes of the investigation we will reserve any further comments.
We will release more information and or a statement in the near future.