Luke Nicholls, who knocked referee Henry Ifesi unconscious, has been handed a 12-month community order
An amateur referee who was knocked unconscious by a player says his attacker “escaped justice” by walking free from court.
28 year old Luke Nicholls has been handed a 12-month community order and been required to wear an electronic tag for inflicting actual bodily harm on Henry Ifesi during a match in Luton in 2016.
Mr Ifesi’s resulting injuries
Mr Ifesi, 49, told talkSPORT: “To me this is a travesty. The sentence will not deter anybody and it will not make me feel safer.”
The attack occured during a match between AFC Stopsley and AFC Enterprise at Stockwood Park on 11 December 2016 in the North Home Counties Sunday Football League.
Mr Ifesi recalls many AFC Stopsley players including Luke Nicholls being abusive towards him from the start of the match.
During the second half Mr Nicholls was given a yellow card, which prompted mass dissent and threats that the referee would be knocked out.
Mr Ifesi said: “I moved towards the sideline with AFC Stopsley players surrounding me, pushing me slightly and shouting in my face. I said to the manager of AFC Enterprise that if anything happened to me to be my witness.”
In the ensuing argument Mr Ifesi says he awarded a red card to Mr Nicholls’ brother and “then I woke up in A&E”.
Mr Ifesi was hospitalised by the attack
Witnesses later told him what had happened.
Mr Ifesi said: “It wasn’t as if it was a spontaneous thing. Luke Nicholls prepared himself, took his time, walked behind me and landed this blow.”
The impact rendered the referee immediately unconscious, causing him to fall to the ground and cut his lip. He was unconscious for up to 25 minutes.
21 months later Mr Ifesi, who has not officiated a match since, says the attack has had a huge effect on his life.
“When I walk around now I am so conscious of myself. When somebody goes behind me I turn and brace myself. It’s a subconscious reaction.”
He insists Mr Nicholls should have gone to jail: “You cannot let the man walk free. What the court has done will in no way help society.”
Ref Support UK CEO Martin Cassidy believes this incident is further evidence that IFAB, which sets the laws of the game, should permit match officials to wear body cameras.
He said: “It took nearly two years for the culprit in this case to be brought to justice. All that valuable police time would have been saved if the rules allowed recording equipment to be used.”
The Ministry of Justice told talkSPORT it does not comment on individual cases. The sentence falls within sentencing guidelines for the offence.