Officials withdraw services after visiting referee suffers abuse
Football officials downed their whistles and flags yesterday in support of a visiting referee who was abused during the derby match between Devonshire Cougars and Devonshire Colts at Devonshire Recreation Club on Saturday night.
Cougars, the home team, won the match 3-1 but their third successive league victory — which lifted them into second place in the Premier Division standings — was marred by some unpleasant scenes.
Steffon Dewar, a referee from Jamaica, was subjected to abuse from Cougars’ players and fans as he made his way off the field after the final whistle, in the wake of issuing red cards in the second half to Drewonde Bascome and Lejuan Simmons.
Simmons, a 63rd-minute substitute, received his red card at the end of the game for using foul and abusive language towards the referee as he questioned his yellow card in the first minute of stoppage time for kicking the ball away after being adjudged to be offside.
Simmons had to be restrained by team-mates during his protests after the final whistle.
The officials had to be held behind by security while the crowd cleared and they also had liquids poured on them from the upper balcony as they made their way to their dressing room.
Early yesterday the decision was taken by the Bermuda Referees Association to withdraw the service of match officials, a move that impacted two matches in both the Premier Division and First Division.
An e-mail sent out yesterday by the Bermuda Football Association confirmed that the matches had been postponed.
Neither body responded to requests for comment yesterday, despite the BFA stating in its early-afternoon release that a statement would be forthcoming.
Football has been facing a shortage of officials with matches postponed or rescheduled because of a lack of numbers.
As a result, the workload of a few officials has increased dramatically.
Saturday’s incident shows that referees and their assistants are still subjected to abuse even though the numbers at football matches have decreased because of Covid restrictions.
“We’re down by nine officials right now; it’s very, very bad,” said one official to The Royal Gazette. “You can figure it out by the number of games that have been postponed every week over the past month.
“We may have enough to run three games; anything more than that and everybody starts doubling up.”
The withdrawal of services comes ahead of the busiest week of the season, with league and cup matches scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Those matches are now in doubt.
Teams chasing league and cup success have been particularly hard-hit with the interruption to the schedule.
Hamilton Parish, the unbeaten First Division leaders, were at Goose Gosling Field preparing for their match with third-placed Boulevard when one of their own club officials came into the dressing room just 45 minutes before kick-off to make them aware that the match had been postponed.
“We were at the game and were ready to play,” coach Sergio Goater said. “We never made it on to the pitch to warm up, but with Covid protocols you have to be there very early.
“I was just about to do my team talk and then my secretary said there’s no game today.
“Boulevard were there, too. Everybody had their Covid test.”
Parish are hoping history is not repeated, as last season they were setting the pace in the promotion race when the campaign ended in December and missed out on promotion.
Going into yesterday’s matches, they held a seven-point lead over BAA.
“Two more wins and we’re in [the Premier Division],” Goater added. They have not had a match since February 6, with three matches postponed for various reasons this month, including an FA Cup tie with Somerset Trojans that has been rescheduled for this Thursday.
“We played Paget in our last game, then were supposed to play Somerset, no game because of lights,” Goater said. “Then Ireland Rangers, shortage of referees, and now today Boulevard, referees stand down, so it’s three weeks without a game!
“Now we’re supposed to play Somerset on Thursday night and we haven’t had any matches. Training has been good, but you can imagine what that’s like to keep these guys motivated.
“How am I supposed to convince these guys to continue? We’ve been undefeated since last year, and that’s not a fluke. But we’re still not looking for any favours.”