Italy promises crackdown on violence against football refs

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday that urgent action was needed after a young referee was attacked following a weekend match in the region of Lazio surrounding Rome.

Italy promises crackdown on violence against football refs
Eight attacks on refs in Italy have been reported since the start of the season. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Riccardo Bernardini, 24, suffered head injuries after being set upon following a match between Virtus Olympia and Atletico Terranova in the Promozione league – the sixth tier of the Italian league system – which ended with two red cards and a goal in stoppage time.

“What's this country where 300 young referees end up in casualty because you think they badly refereed your son's match,” said Salvini.

“There are 35,000 referees in Italy. Not professional, not those of AC Milan-Juventus but from small outlying areas, parish grounds. Every Sunday they referee on 11,000 pitches, for free, in the cold, under the snow.

“Only this year, 300 of these young people have ended up in the hospital – three hundred!”, claimed Salvini.

According to the Italian Referees Association (AIA), Sunday's attack was the eighth in the championship since the start of the season.

As a result Italian referees are to boycott amateur matches in the region of Lazio this week in protest. And Salvini and Sports Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti will meet with AIA president Marcello Nicchi on Tuesday to decide a plan of action.

“The perpetrators of these actions can no longer be part of our world,” said Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina.

The federation is considering “even more drastic measures to stop this abuse”, which could go as far as excluding responsible clubs, added Gravina.