Referee knocked unconscious during Luton football match

Henry Ifesi after the attack
Henry Ifesi after the attack

A football match in Luton turned foul on Sunday as a referee was brutally attacked while writing a red card.

Father-of-three Henry Ifesi was subjected to a tirade of swearing and abuse as he refereed the match between AFC Stopsley and AFC Enterprise at Stockwood Park on Sunday morning.

After issuing yellow cards for players’ bad language and warning off spectators crossing the sideline, 47-year-old Mr Ifesi was busy writing out a red card when he was knocked unconscious.

He said: “I’ve been a referee for 24 years and I’ve never experienced anything like it.

“The match started typically. The players were very, very abusive towards me. Once or twice I stopped and had a word with them about using the F word.

“In the second half, one of the Stopsley players was shouting and swearing. I caught him, took down his name and gave him a yellow card.

“Another player from his team ran up to me and said, ‘you get on with the game, you f****** c***’.”

After issuing another yellow card, things went from bad to worse as a third team mate approached and began hurling abuse.

Mr Ifesi said: “This was the biggest player on the pitch. He ran up to me and said, ‘you are a mad man, you f****** c***.’

“A man then crossed the sideline, he came alongside with the big lad and they said they were going to knock me out.

“I told the man to get back past the sideline but he refused.”

After speaking to one of the team managers, Mr Ifesi went back on to the pitch which was by now a scene of chaos.

The last thing he recalls is looking down while writing a red card. Mr Ifesi regained consciousness around 15 to 20 minutes later inside an ambulance, with a head injury and burst lip. From inside the vehicle, he looked out to see the abandoned pitch and car park. He was taken to Luton & Dunstable Hospital for treatment and later gave a statement to police.

Mr Ifesi said: “I had a big gash in my lip, I have blurred vision and I haven’t been able to sleep. My wife is a nurse and she has had to stay home and look after me in case I have a fit.”

Mr Ifesi works as a CCTV operator during the day and has had to give up work temporarily while he recovers from blurred vision. His wife has also taken time off work to look after him.

Although the couple tried to keep their children from hearing about the incident, their daughter learned of it in school.

Mr Ifesi added: “I’m a bit disappointed because I expected the FA to show some more concern. It’s being treated as though I was pushed but I was knocked unconscious.”

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “We are investigating an assault that happened during a football match at Stockwood Park on Sunday, December 11.

“At around 11.45am a man was hit on the back of the head by another man, which knocked him to the floor and resulted in him requiring hospital treatment.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference number C/50877/2016.”