HIGH AND DRY: Home of the Italo Stars soccer club in North Lismore which will be without home games next season.
HIGH AND DRY: Home of the Italo Stars soccer club in North Lismore which will be without home games next season.

Player banned for life

AN Italo Stars soccer player has been banned from the sport for life after throwing a beer can at a referee at the Football Far North Coast premier division grand final.

Three players and one spectator received bans and the Italo Stars lost all their home games for the 2008 season as FFNC enforced its zero tolerance policy on referee abuse.

Italo Stars treasurer John Deconti told The Northern Star the club had appealed against the severity of the sentences.

In video footage seen by The Northern Star, grand final referee Luke Mackney was called a 'f***ing cheat', had beer sprayed on him and was narrowly missed by a beer can after a controversial match at Oakes Oval, Lismore, in which two Stars players were sent off and the team lost to Richmond Rovers 1-0 on a penalty kick.

FFNC held a formal investigation into the incident and released its findings yesterday.

"We will not accept this type of behaviour on any level," FFNC chairman Michael Gaertner said.

"FFNC has completed a review of all evidence available with a number of individuals sanctioned with a range of charges such as: Foul and abusive language directed at match officials; threatening match officials; bringing the game into disrepute; and inciting the crowd.

"Our review has been very thorough and we are satisfied we have identified and charged all the main instigators associated with this unnecessary and hugely disappointing episode.

"We have advised the identified individuals and their club of the sanctions we believe are appropriate for the conduct demonstrated at the grand final."

A reserve grade player was banned for life for throwing the beer can from the grandstand at referee Mackney as he walked down the players' tunnel.

A premier division player who had to be restrained by team-mates was banned for 10 years.

Another premier division player who swore at Mackney was given a one-year ban.

The spectator who sprayed the referee with beer will not be allowed to attend a local match for the next five years.

The Italo Stars club was charged with bringing the game into disrepute and has lost the right to play home matches at their North Lismore ground for one year. The club also faces a monetary fine.

Deconti said the home-ground ban was unfair to club members who had nothing to do with the incident. "This is not just harming the soccer club," he said.

"It hurts the members as well. For some of these people it is their only meeting place."

He declined to comment on the severity of the sentences handed down to players.

Instead he said the club was currently preparing an appeal on its ban, but said it was up to the individual players to appeal their bans.

"When we are playing away from the club it is hard for us to have control over what our fans do," he said Gaertner said the bans were subject to appeal but stressed the severe penalties reflected the FFNC's attitude to the treatment of referees.

"FFNC considers the events of September 22 to have been damaging to all our members and, of course, football across the region," he said.

"Through the course of the off-season the FFNC board of directors and senior management will examine ways to ensure repeats of this type of behaviour do not occur.

"We expect a zero tolerance policy to be in place for the future where players or spectators found guilty of abusive or threatening behaviour towards match officials will receive the maximum penalties.

"Members of FFNC deserve the right to believe the game will be played and promoted in a positive environment." The appeals will be heard some time after next Tuesday. FFNC said it will make no further announcements until the appeals are finalised.

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