Last night, a FA Youth Cup 1st qualifying round game between Newport County and Bath City descended into chaos when referee Darren Adie sent 5 Bath players and their manager off in a row over some Bath players breaching FA rules regarding underwear (yes, there are rules about what underwear is allowed).
Rule 4 states that “if thermal undershorts are worn, they must be of the same main colour as the shorts”. Bath City played last night's game in the away strip, whic includes red shorts, so the players’ white cycling shorts fell foul of this rule.
The game was 20 minutes old when defender Billy Cooper was lying on the floor injured after a heavy challenge. The referee saw his white cycling shorts and ordered him off to change. He then noticed another Bath player with the same problem and ordered him to change too.
While the two Bath players were waiting to come back onto the pitch, Newport opened the scoring. In the protests that followed, Cooper, his manager Billy Clark and unused substitute Ciaran Rogers were all sent off.
Zemell Burton, Ben Bicknell and goalkeeper Lewis Pierre were also sent off, though not for underwear-related offences. Unsurprisingly, Bath eventually lost the game 6-0.
Bath managing director Paul Williams was far from impressed by the referee’s overzealous application of the rules saying “It was all very surreal. I was angry with the officials. Rules are rules but the officiating wasn't what it should have been for a youth cup tie” before adding “Why didn't the officials check the colours before the start?”
"Every team has to submit a report about the officials to the FA. Let's just say ours is a very long report."
The official Bath City website at the time of writing had this statement regarding the game; “We had been expecting to publish a match report of last night’s FA Youth Cup 1st Qualifying Round match between the Bath City Academy and the Newport County Academy. Due to the controversial events that took place during the match, however, and the fact that the vast majority of the players in the match are under 18, we will not do so at this time”
Bath officials and parents of the players were especially angry when Adie went one step further and applied the rule to conventional underwear too. Adie ordered one player to not only remove his cycling shorts, but his underwear too and he had to go commando for the rest of the match. Newport, which is in South Wales, is not that far away from Bath, so there is a good chance that those players made to change at the side of the pitch’s parents were in the crowd watching, which when added to the rest of the 149 people in attendance must have made for a humiliating experience, especially considering these players would be aged between 16 and 18.
Bath Chairman Manda Rigby said “The referee may have been right on a technicality but I cannot believe that when that rule was made, the intended consequence was that 16 and 17-year-olds should have to change their shorts in public at the side of a pitch. That cannot be the right thing to be done at this level.” She said parents at the match were “distressed and angry” at the referee’s behaviour. “This was the biggest game in some of these players’ lives. They’re in the academy for two years so they only get two shots at the youth cup.”
Ms Rigby said she intended to speak to the referee after the game but he locked himself in his room and refused to come out!
Newport County secretary Mike Everett said he won’t be complaining about the referee's performance."I understand that the initial problem was regarding incorrect undergarments," he said. "The referee made his decisions. There's not a lot I can add."
A spokesman for the FA said it was looking into the incident in conjunction with the Welsh FA – which would have provided the official for the match.
After Sunday’s match between QPR and Aston Villa, QPR manager Neil Warnock, a man not exactly shy of speaking his mind when it comes to referees, labelled referee Michael Oliver’s performance ‘embarrassing’, following some controversial penalty decisions. Well, just imagine what Neil Warnock would’ve made of this guy!