Last night, late in the Championship game between Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers, referee Scott Duncan ruled out what would have been an equalising Rovers goal.
What happened next stirred an echo of an unwelcome piece of history on the same ground.
Blackburn’s Hope Akpan ran towards the referee and with both hands pushed him in the chest in a clear assault on the official.
Duncan, although taken by surprise, was able to maintain his balance and not fall backwards onto the field.
I am sure many older spectators present at the game would remember when one of their favourite players, Italian Paolo Di Canio, pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after Di Canio had been shown a red card following a clash with Arsenal’s Martin Keown.
Many Wednesday fans even to this day question the validity of Alcock going to ground and much humour
has surrounded a serious incident.
There is no doubt that it was rather theatrical, but in defence of the referee he would have been surprised by the action of the Wednesday player. The Football Association acted quickly and dispensed an eleven game ban (the statutory three for violent conduct Plus a further eight) and £10,000 fine sending out a message that this action by any player would not be tolerated.
Given the debate on Respect and assaults on referees at grassroots level, the FA must act swiftly and hand out a similar punishment to Hope Akpan for the unforgivable act of laying hands on a referee.