Patriots Park was the site of a despicable event recently when a soccer referee was assaulted by a player.
As of Thursday, a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the matter had not culminated with an arrest.
It happened during a July 8 Augusta Amateur Soccer League match. With the match having gone into overtime and the opposing team having scored a go-ahead goal, the referee called a penalty on the player, who allegedly reacted outrageously, according to the Sheriff’s Office incident report.
According to the referee, the player began stepping on him and kicking his shins. The referee tried to pull a red card, and the player pushed his arm away. When he tried to give the red card once more, the player grabbed his neck and attempted to choke him, according to the report.
The referee began coughing up blood and left the game, which had ended at that point, and went to the hospital.
Richard Richards, the league’s referee assignor and Greater Augusta Soccer Officials Association president, was out of town, but says he heard about the incident five minutes after it happened. His outrage was swift and appropriate.
“I don’t want him out on the streets,” said Richards of the alleged attacker, who must be at least 18 years old to play in the adult league. “If you’re going to attack one of my officials, I want you to be prosecuted to the full extent.”
According to AASL owner and administrator Ricky Sanders, the player was permanently banned from competing in the league.
But might he still play elsewhere?
“I know places where he is registered to play in other leagues,” Richards said.
He will not be playing in Columbia County anytime soon, however.
“I’m just going to make sure he doesn’t get on any of our rosters,” said county Recreation and Events Manager Stacie Adkins. “The only (adult) thing that is offered out here is softball or soccer.”
With a possible assault charge pending, soccer might be the furthest thing from that player’s mind.
The incident won’t keep Adkins from renting fields to the AASL again.
“They handled it before I even knew about it,” Adkins said. “I don’t want the whole league to be punished because of one guy’s bad choice.”
Unfortunately in this day and age, it’s not unthinkable that this would ever happen at any level, though usually it sounds more like something that would occur in a South American country.
Here, in a youth or school setting, there would be swift parental, school and, likely, police involvement. But without those ties, judicial action might be the only possible recourse.
A longtime referee in the area, who did not wish to be identified, said they won’t throw new referees into the adult leagues.
“The adult league can be a different beast just because there’s a lot of things you don’t know about,” he said. “This person may work for a competing company.
“There could be bad blood from somewhere else and obviously, they’re bigger people.”