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Italian refs boycott amateur games after post-match attack

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ROME (Reuters) – Italian referees are to boycott amateur matches in the region of Lazio after one of them was attacked following a match on Sunday.

Riccardo Bernardini, 24, had to be treated in hospital after being attacked by at least two supporters following a match between Virtus Olympia and Atletico Terranova in the Promozione league — the sixth tier of the Italian league system, Italian media said.

The reports said the men invaded the referee’s changing room and punched him, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ground. He was treated by a member of the visiting team and taken to hospital.

Atletico Terranova scored a late goal to win 3-2 after the official sent off two home team players, reports said.

The Italian referees’ association AIA described the incident as “the umpteenth episode of violence and harm to a referee.”

“In the circumstances, the young member was attacked savagely and needed urgent treatment in a hospital emergency unit, where he is still recovering,” AIA said in a statement.

It said that no amateur matches — which in Italy is from the fourth tier downwards — would be officiated in Lazio for one week. “New and similar initiatives will be evaluated in the event of further incidents of serious violence,” AIA said.

The Virtus Olympia club said on its Facebook page that it “deeply regretted” the incident which had “nothing to do with football.”

It said the technical area and changing-rooms had been “trespassed on by these individuals who are totally unknown to the club.”

The region of Lazio has around 5.9 million inhabitants and includes Rome. The Italian league pyramid has three tiers of professional leagues and six tiers of amateur leagues which include more than 7,000 clubs.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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