Football referee says he was dropped because of his colour

Britain's only top-level Asian referee launched the first claim for racial discrimination by the Football Association against a match official yesterday.

Britain's only top-level Asian referee launched the first claim for racial discrimination by the Football Association against a match official yesterday.

Gurnam Singh, 46, who has appeared at Wembley, was sacked last season after 22 years. He claims he was dropped from the FA register because of his colour.

At an employment tribunal that opened in Birmingham, Mr Singh alleged that he was sacked despite gaining better assessment marks than white referees who are still working. Speaking before the hearing, which is expected to last five days, he said: "I just want some kind of justice. They are making me out to be a bad referee and I just want to set the record straight."

His claim for unfair dismissal and racial discrimination is backed by the Commission for Racial Equality. It is the first of its kind against both the FA and the Football League. The Football League said it would be "strongly contesting" the case.

Referees have a yearly assessment based on marks awarded to them after each game by officials of the home and away clubs. The League claims the FA was forced to drop Mr Singh from its register because his marks were consistently low over three years. But Mr Singh, an accountant from Wolverhampton, says he gained better marks than fellow white referees who were kept on.

"There was no indication this was coming," he said yesterday. "I've never had any racial problems from within the game, apart from the odd chants from the crowd, which have never really bothered me."

The former non-league player, who turned to officiating after an injury, went professional in 1989. He was one of just three non-white referees operating in the professional leagues. He refereed in the Nationwide League and the highlight of his career was refereeing in the Division 2 play-off at Wembley in 1996between Notts County and Bradford City.

Giving evidence, Mr Singh said: "Although it was inevitable that I would encounter some sort of discrimination from the football terraces, I did not think I would receive it from the authorities themselves."

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