Meet the ex-Serie A referee who ended up being sacked for stopping a game for racism – and is now in England’s non league.
Claudio Gavillucci lost his dream job as an top flight Italian official in 2018 just weeks after he called a game between Sampdoria and Napoli to a halt due to abuse coming from the crowd.
In doing so, he became the first-ever Serie A referee to take such action against racism, something he says that he would do again if the issue occurred.
On the record, Gavillucci’s sacking was for ‘technical performances’, however he disputes the fact and claims it was down to his hard stance against racism and vehemently appealed the decision.
With no future in football in Italy, he has moved to England and set up base on the Wirral in order to link up with associates of the food company he founded – and put a call into Cheshire FA so that he can get back to being on the pitch.
He spent his weekends officiating the likes of Widnes FC and Nantwich Town before being promoted to the National League North.
His first game at that level was Curzon Ashton and Alfreton Town who played out a 1-1 draw.
He says if he is faced with racism again, just as he was in Italy, he insists he would do the exact same thing.
“I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute and I’d take exactly the same decision,” Gavillucci said. “Racism is evil and it must be eradicated no matter which country it is in.
“I made the decision to temporarily suspend the game following discriminatory chants directed towards the Neapolitans and the player Kalidou Koulibaly.
“It was the first time a referee had halted a match in Italy for discriminatory chanting.
“The reasons given by the Italian Football Association for my dismissal following that season was that the decision was based on the technical results of my overall performances.
“Unfortunately, I will never have clarity as up until last season, there was no transparency around the marks and performances of referees in Serie A like there is in England.”
Whilst the way he was got rid of was disappointing, Gavillucci has since immersed himself in English non league.
Communication was a hurdle to get over, but his games now flow more than they ever did in Italy.
And the joy of the post-match pint is a new tradition he has got completely on board with.
He said: “Being back refereeing in leagues where football is purely about fun – and doing so in the homeland where the Laws of the Game were born – is certainly a unique experience for somebody like me who loves the game.
“As an example, it may not be Juventus, but refereeing the oldest team in the world, Sheffield FC, will remain among the best memories of my career.
“I love English football and especially the fact that in the lower levels of the game you can still feel the true essence of football.
“The fact that the players on the pitch think about playing football and don’t ask for a foul at every contact, like players do in Italy, is fantastic.
“In England, I sometimes end matches with only 10 to 15 fouls in total, which is unthinkable in Italy where the average is about 30 fouls per match.
“I like that the stadiums have no barriers and that fans are very close to the pitch, and that this is not a risk for the referees.
“In Italy, this would not be possible, especially in the lower leagues, where there are around 300 acts of violence towards referees each year.
“I also love the ‘third half’ after the match in the social room with both teams – it is a habit that I would have liked to have when I was refereeing in Italy!”
Everyone regardless of their background should be able to enjoy matches and competitions in a safe and welcoming environment. Instilling confidence in reporting discrimination allows us to tackle discrimination and eliminate it from todays game.
When discriminatory behaviour takes place, those who witness it – or are the victim of it – need to be able to report it quickly, and to the right people. The reporting process needs to be easy and confidential. Plus, those who make reports must be confident that their concerns or experiences will be heard and, where necessary, dealt with promptly and appropriately.
What is discriminatory behaviour?
Discriminatory abuse includes a reference to any one or more of the following ‘protected characteristics’, covered by the Equality Act, 2010:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sex (gender)
- Sexual orientation
If you see or hear discrimination at a club, whether it be on the pitch, at the training ground or in the stands, please use the Kick It Out app to report it or alternatively some clubs operate a text service, which can be used to directly communicate with the match day staff at the club. Tell a steward. Words can hurt.