By Nick Creely
A Parkmore Springvale Districts footballer has been banned for life after punching an umpire during a match on the weekend.
The under 19s player immediately pleaded guilty at the Southern Football League tribunal on Tuesday night, and will now be unable to play for any league – including AFL – after the tribunal’s decision was handed down.
The incident occurred during their clash with East Brighton after a young umpire awarded a free kick and a 50-metre penalty, where the opposition player punched the umpire, cutting his lip.
Both teams abandoned the match immediately, but the umpire didn’t suffer any serious injuries as a result.
Southern Football League CEO Mike Palmer said it was a difficult decision for the tribunal to make, but one that was necessary.
“It’s a difficult situation and decision – it means someone who enjoys playing footy won’t play again,” he said.
“There’s no winners in this – it’s all pretty sad.”
Palmer praised the umpire for his handling of the situation and even bravely umpiring the next day, and pointed to safety as being the main reason to why the game was immediately called off.
“We feel really sorry for the umpire, he expects to be umpiring safely, and we have to respect that,” he said.
“We had little choice to make that decision (to call the game off).
“But the umpire showed a real strength of character through what was a traumatic experience.”
But Palmer also acknowledged that the player showed extreme “remorse” at the tribunal hearing after pleading guilty, and will be supported by the league and his club in the future.
“He wrote a very sincere apology letter to the umpire, and it was very genuine, and the player is distraught,” he said.
“He was very quiet (at the hearing), and remorseful about the situation.
“But we’ll help support him through the club, we won’t just ignore him – if he wants to be involved in any way off-field with the club or league, we certainly won’t be opposed to that.
“We don’t just want to throw a guy to the wolves.”
Springvale Districts president Sean Francis released a statement on Tuesday on behalf of the club, strongly opposing the actions of his now banned player.
“Last night the tribunal passed down its ruling on the incident from our under 19s match on the weekend,” Francis said.
“The reported player pled guilty and accepted responsibility for his actions. The sentence handed down by the tribunal was a life ban.
“We accept the ruling of the tribunal and support the tough stance taken by the league on this issue. This kind of incident is not acceptable and has no place in our game.
“The club will support the player in his transition out of football in what is a difficult time for all involved.”
Palmer said he was “proud” of the club’s strong stance in the statement, and praised them for how they have handled a difficult situation.
“They were genuinely mortified – no one could quite believe it, and they reacted strongly towards it,” he said.
“They were part of the decision to call the game off, because everyone was so shocked by it all.
“I’m pretty proud of what the club has done since.
“They’ve reached out to the umpire, and they’ve respected and protected the player, but acknowledged what he’s done.”