American players have more respect says former Vale ref

Former ADL referee Ezra O'Neill

Former ADL referee Ezra O'Neill

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They may be ridiculed by purists for calling football ‘soccer’ but a former Vale referee believes there’s a lot to be learnt from the Americans when it comes to showing officials respect.

Ezra O’Neill, 27, stopped refereeing in Bucks five years ago following an incident in which he was assaulted during a match.

Now, on a ‘soccer’ scholarship in the United States, he has spoken about how US players call the referee Sir.

Ezra has taken charge of more than 1,000 matches across seven countries and has found attitude towards referees varies.

“When I referee in the US the players call you “Sir” and the respect is much greater,” he said.

“It is completely the opposite in Costa Rica, where I have also refereed, and people give you all kinds of abuse, and even threaten to chop your head off.”

Ezra was speaking after an incident earlier this month during a match in the SLN Aylesbury Sunday Combination league.

The game between Thame Town Wanderers and SFG was marred by an attempted assault on match official Mark Strong.

Ezra said: “I have sympathy with Mr Strong because this sort of incident is completely unacceptable.

“When I was assaulted the first thing I did was abandon the match, which is what you should do in that situation.

“I don’t know whether Mr Strong did abandon the game but if he let it continue it could cause disciplinary problems further down the line.”

Ezra, who still referees part time in the United States, now plays for Benedictine University in Illinois.

Before that, Ezra played for Truett-McConnell college, who play in one of the toughest conferences in the United States in Atlanta.

He said he decided to stop refereeing in Aylesbury because of a lack of support from the county FA to discipline the player involved.

“I felt angry and frustrated by what happened to me and I thought it was personal,” Ezra said.

“Everybody involved in football agreed assaulting an official was unacceptable and I feel that the Berks & Bucks FA had a real chance to make an example of this individual and they chose not to.

“Nobody took the time to ask how I was or anything like that which seems incredible when I look back on it because this sort of incident could make some referees think about giving up.”

“I do not think respect towards referees has improved in the UK while I have been doing the job.”

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