Rugby League: Fan's surprise attack breaks rugby league taboo

Click to follow
The Independent Online
RUGBY LEAGUE does not believe that it has a major problem with crowd control, despite the attack by a spectator on the referee, Stuart Cummings, at the end of the Challenge Cup semi-final at Headingley on Saturday.

Cummings was grabbed from behind by a fan during a small-scale pitch invasion at the end of the cup tie between Sheffield and Salford. The official, one of Britain's most experienced referees, suffered bruised ribs.

A man was taken into police custody and Neil Tunnicliffe, the acting chief executive of the Rugby League, said that charges would be pressed. "It will also make us doubly careful over the policing and stewarding of games in the future," he said.

Attacks on referees are a rarity, at least at the professional level of the game, although Robert Connolly was set on by irate spectators at the end of a match at Castleford last season.

"We don't have the crowd problems that are associated with some other sports," the League's public affairs executive, Dave Callaghan, said. "But we are shocked by this and we will not be taking it lightly. A very through investigation has been launched."

Headingley is one of the most wide open of grounds and it would require spectators to be almost outnumbered by police and stewards to make sure that no one could get on to the field. Although the crowd was below 7,000 on Saturday, the Leeds club had catered for an estimated attendance of 12,000.

Top-flight referees have all experienced being jostled and called names after controversial matches, but physical attacks have been a taboo. In one incident in a First Division match in France, one of their number took the law into his own hands, dealing with a fan who attacked him by flattening him with a right hook and then abandoning the game.