Police probe into violent attack at Harpenden Town football match
PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 November 2016
A vicious assault on a football volunteer at a match, whose tooth was knocked loose, has shocked Harpenden fans attending the game.
David Rigby, a committee member of Harpenden Town FC, said that police had to be called towards the last stage of a match with Harrow-based Broadfields United at Harefield on Saturday, November 5.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police has confirmed that officers were called following the assault and that an investigation was ‘ongoing’.
David said that the assailant had been openly critical of a particular linesman’s calls.
He added: “He was about 25-35 in age, wearing a greyish top and black gilet. One of our supporters was saying, ‘leave it alone, he is just a linesman, stop abusing him’ because he was following him along the line, and swearing at him.
“The guy turned on the Harpenden supporter and said ‘who the hell are you talking to?’ The local guy said ‘leave him alone’.”
Apparently this progressed to shoving by the other man, who then, according to David, “suddenly swung a punch and dislodged a tooth.
“At that stage, there was an off-duty officer, possibly a trainee, who went over to the men and said she was an officer.
“He obviously thought he was in danger of being arrested, so he ran away, after jumping over a bench, and disappeared down the road.”
David said that the injured Harpenden supporter was bleeding from his mouth and needed to seek treatment.
Met officers arrived at the pitch, and took statements from those attending.
David added: “We were appalled – it is the worst incident I have seen at a club game and is out of the ordinary. His upper front tooth was dislodged, and he was shocked by what happened.
“The people playing were also stunned but at the very same time, one of our players was being taken to hospital, after displacing a bone in his ankle, so they were crowding around the injured player.”
At the 90th minute left-back Phil Smeaton collapsed on the ground with what was at first suspected to be a snapped Achilles tendon, “which could be heard all round the ground”. He was finally taken to hospital by ambulance an hour later.
A disappointed David said that while there was usually banter on the sidelines at football, it did not usually descend into violence, particularly as volunteers gave up their time to support teams and the sport itself was trying to stop such behaviour.