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Referee speaks after being attacked by player since sacked by Epsom & Ewell

Referee Mark Spence speaks for the first time after being attacked by a player who has since been sacked by Epsom & Ewell FC.

Video footage of Alex Penfold’s outburst (which you can see below) got over 500,000 views after he was filmed throwing punches at three footballers from Dorking Wanderers Reserves.

He was also seen chasing down the referee, who also got smacked in the face, after he had sent him off moments earlier for a slightly less aggressive offence.

The referee, shielded by players from both teams, managed to escape before abandoning the game in the 69th minute with the reserve team 3-0 up.

Epsom & Ewell FC didn’t name the player, but fans have an idea as he wore no.12 on the back of his shirt, but confirmed in a post-match statement that he had since been “released” with “immediate effect”.

The statement in full read: “Epsom and Ewell Football Club would like to put on record our apologies to today’s officials and players of Dorking.

“We will not tolerate this behaviour at our club and are mortified by the scenes in today’s match.

“The player in question has been released by the club with immediate effect.

“We would like to thank Dorking for their hospitality today and again apologise for today’s match. This sort of action holds no place in football or society.”

Ref Mark Spence told Southern Combination Football League chairman Steve Nealgrove he had wanted to carry on with the game.

However, his assistants convinced him abandoning the game was the right thing to do – and now the league and the FA await the referee’s report to enable the FA to conduct their investigation into what happened.

Nealgrove told West Sussex County Times he was made aware of the incident and the abandonment soon after it happened, and added that he is in favour life bans for any player guilty of assaulting or attempting to assault a match official.

Nealgrove said: “I spoke to the official himself to check that he was physically and mentally fine and he said he was. He told me he’d felt able to carry on with the game after the incident but his assistants convinced him abandonment was the right thing to do, which we as a league would agree with. Mark (the referee) told me he was looking forward to officiating his next game, which is great to hear.

“I also spoke to officials from both clubs and by the time I spoke to Epsom and Ewell they had already dealt with it swiftly in releasing the player and issuing a statement apologising. I know their officials went into the Dorking officials and apologised too.

“It was a totally unacceptable incident that has happened at a time when there is a national shortage of officials. Incidents like this need to be punished – firmly. In my view, any player found guilty of assaulting or attempting to assault a match official should be banned for life without the right of appeal.

“We as a league go a long way to support match officials and I hope the FA deal with this incident firmly. We are already struggling to find enough referees for step five, six and seven games – some clubs are having to provide their own officials for some games – and incidents like this only harm attempts to maintain numbers.”

It is possible the FA may charge Epsom over the incident as well as punishing the player.

FAN’S ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT:

“I was also at the game. First half was pretty ordinary, Dorking Wdrs Reserves were 3-0 up at half time, and Epsom & Ewell were largely limited to long range pot-shots (miles over the bar).

“Second half started off with pretty much more of the same for 10 minutes.

“It all flared up with a foul by a Dorking player right in front of the Main Stand (where most fans were due to the rain). The ref was slow to book the Dorking player and the linesman (who was very close to the foul) looked like saying nothing to assist the ref. While the ref pontificated what to do (ie yellow card or not) the Epsom players, mainly led by Alex Penfold (the big number 12, and also their player-manager) were getting very stroppy, pushing Dorking players about and trying to wind them up. The crowd in the stand who were quiet all game until now, got very heated and were all shouting their opinions. Aside from the Dorking player booked for the foul, Penfold and Dorking number 7 Dyson also got booked on the advice of the rather large linesman for their part in the afters.

“Suddenly the game was incredibly competitive and there were fouls all over the place, and many cards.

“The next big flare up was when a ball was played across towards the touchline and both an Epsom and a Dorking player were both sprinting to get to it first. The Dorking player was slightly ahead in the sprint to get to the ball, and they were both going at an incredible rate. The Epsom player shoved the Dorking player into the perimeter railings. Cue more pushing and shoving between players of both teams, lots of arguing and shouting, and eventually the ref sent off the Epsom player.

“A couple more minutes of players doing little other than fouling each other and the odd yellow card, then the big incident.

“Penfold fouled a Dorking player which was a second yellow, and then you got what you saw in the video – the ref showed a red card to him, a Dorking player touched him and then he started swinging at anyone in his way to get to the Ref, who just about backed away sufficiently.

“Luckily a few people standing pitchside got onto the pitch to diffuse things, but after more than 5 minutes of everyone not believing what they had seen, the ref and 2 linos went 30 yards away from everyone else and agreed amongst themselves to abandon it – with 69 or 70 mins on the clock.

“I know Epsom & Ewell are very keen to get promoted, this was their 4th manager this season alone, they are ambitious, but there was no way they were likely to win the 3 points today once they went 3 down, and it’s daft really because Dorking Wdrs reserves aren’t really a threat to their ambitions – as a Reserve team in a step 6 league, Dorking Reserves can’t get promoted (so in the final table they are effectively ‘invisible’ and don’t take a promotion place)

“Interesting reading some of the comments on twitter. There is some suggestion that Penfold may have previously played under another name, that he has ‘used up all of his 9 lives’ so he has form.

“What is wierd is that most players on the pitch are relatively young lads, trying to make their way in the game. This guy was at least 10 years older, 5 stone heavier, and pretty much a playground bully, winding up opposition players and offering players out after previous flare ups in the match. Whilst it could be said that the referee was a bit on the gentle and niaive side, he was doing his best (and what sort of ref do you expect at step 6 at 11am on the 27th December?), without referees we haven’t got a game to enjoy going to. Matches will be better off without players like Penfold bullying and intimidating their way against younger, quicker more skilful lads.”

Twitter users reacted as the referee speaks after being attacked by player since sacked by Epsom & Ewell FC…

@beekrt: Life ban from football and police investigation! @metpoliceuk @EnglandFootball @FA

@HappyHopperNE: I hope that @EEFCOfficial don’t face any unnecessary punitive actions from the FA. This decisive action against the player shows how seriously they have taken this.

@nphelps001: Fair play to the dorking players trying to protect the ref.

@andrew22harper2: Well done Epson & Ewell for such prompt action. Seeing what happened is a disgrace and has no place in any sport in this country. Some clubs in the football league would not have acted as fast and well as Epson & Elwell and they should be complimented.

@RossMenhennet: Excellent statement

@JasonHibbert7: What’s that the last of his 9 lives? About time

@lordofmymanor: Player taking a swipe at ref…. words escape me. 🙈. Glad you’ve taken a strong stance and released the player.. hooligan

@Gainesy66: Good swift response. Now to see if @FA act with with similar speed, and a suitable ban

@peteswift44: Well done for taking immediate action against the player concerned… let’s hope the local FA issue him a lengthy ban too. No place in football for this and no place for players who think they are allowed to act like that!

@KevWilliams: Well done Epsom and Ewell…the player should be banned for life, or be made to become a ref.

@Skyseller67: A coward, pure and simple. Can now spend his Saturdays down the gym to try and shift that gut. Well done Epsom And Ewell.

@WazzaBarlow: Well done Epson & Well. Best way to deal with thugs in the game. Get rid!!! We don’t need them in our game. Hopefully more clubs will follow their lead. Well done

@norfolkktravels: Well done E&E. With any luck, the twat will be limited to games of three & in with a couple of mates in the park from now on.

@LewisH92: Good work from the Epsom & Ewell management to stamp this out from early. Without officials the game doesn’t go ahead. Yet the player in question wants to step to the ref. That takes head loss to a new level

@NealHusseyUK: Fair play to the club for binning the thug. No surprise there is a shortage of refs at supply/ contrib level

@col12099381: Well done to you, a real credit to football. Let’s hope no other football club takes him on either and his footballing life is over

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