How other sports protect officials

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The Independent Online
CRICKET

Violence against cricket officials is rare and there has been no incident comparable with Paolo Di Canio's attack on Paul Alcock. In 1980, the West Indian bowler Colin Croft barged into umpire Fred Goodall following a controversial decision during a Test match in New Zealand but escaped punishment after claiming it was accidental. Mike Gatting, the former England captain, merely had to apologise after his finger-jabbing confrontation with the Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana in 1987. Jack Bannister, who represented the Cricketers' Association on the commitee that suspended Geoff Arnold for verbal abuse of an umpire in the 1970s, said: "In the present climate, a physical assault would almost certainly incur a lengthy ban, possibly up to a full season.

RUGBY UNION

Neil Back, the Leicester flanker, received a six-month suspension for shoving Steve Lander, the international referee, at the end of the 1996 cup final at Twickenham, but his assault was nowhere near as full-blooded as that perpetrated by Di Canio. Any player found guilty of striking a match official - and a Di Canio-style push would almost certainly come into the "striking" category - could expect to be suspended sine die. Rugby Football Union guidelines recommend a life ban for "extreme physical assault".

RUGBY LEAGUE

Rugby league has traditionally taken a stern view of any violence against officials. David Myers of Bradford was banned for the rest of the season after "deliberately colliding" with the referee, John Connolly, in February 1995. The Salford prop, Ian Blease, was banned sine die in May 1997 for hitting a touch-judge during a reserve team fixture at Bradford. The suspension was later reduced to end on 31 March this year, since when Blease has played for Swinton.

BOXING

The most famous case of a boxer hitting an official came in December 1987 at Wembley Arena, when a light-heavyweight, Bobby Frankham, attacked referee Richie Davies after Frankham's fight with Bobby Sim was stopped in round one. Frankham later claimed his behaviour came as a result of powerful pain-killers he had taken; apparently, he was so badly affected that he had forgotten he was to fight that evening and had started drinking in the bar before his bout. But Frankham's plea for mitigation was not well received and he was banned for life.

BASKETBALL

No basketball player has attacked a referee on court since the National League was formed in 1972 or in the Budweiser League since it began in 1987. But an incident similar to di Canio's actions at Hillsborough would "bring a substantial fine and a lengthy ban, possibly until the end of the season" according to the sport's disciplinary office Morris Wordsworth. "But, depending obviously on the severity of the assault, I doubt whether a player would be banned for life." Such is the pace, size and strength of the athletes and opportunity for violent contact in basketball that games have at least two on-court officials, and three in some competitions, plus a courtside commissioner. If dissent grows a referee can cool the situation by applying technical fouls until the player has to leave the court after collecting two or three, depending the severity of the dissent.

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