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Are you blind, ref! Don’t you know emotional abuse when you see it?


A YOUTH football club has been ordered to pay £3,000 compensation to the family of a boy aged ten who claimed he was the victim of ‘racism’ and ‘emotional abuse’.

The heinous crime committed against him? He was substituted during a pre-season tournament last summer. His father duly contacted the council’s child protection team which, instead of telling him to grow up, pursued the case.

The award was made at Reading County Court against the Berkshire club Winnersh Rangers, who did not attend the hearing because they were unaware it was being held. Having received the bill for damages, voluntary organisers announced they would appeal. One said that substitutions are ‘just part of the game’ and the lad was taken off to ‘give everyone a fair chance and even playing time’.

He described the boy’s father as ‘a passionate parent thinking he was doing the right thing, but losing sight that we are here for the children’.

Quite how the figure of £3,000 was arrived at remains unexplained. Yet the case must have compensation lawyers salivating. For too long coaches’ tactical decisions have gone unchallenged. Now must be the time for a whole new court system where parents can vent their spleen on managers and referees, and make a few bob into the bargain . . .

Dateline: Hampstead Junior Football Crimes Tribunal, April 1, 2025. Ms Justice Batmanghelidjh presiding.

Court clerk: Are you Joshua Maitland-Whelk?

Small boy: Yes.

And what is your age?

Nine and a bit.

Do you understand why you are here?

Not really.

The prosecution allege that you, with malice aforethought, did wilfully score three goals, a hat-trick in common parlance, in an under-tens match between Hampstead Tigers and Islington Pandas.

Er, yes.

And that in commission of said hat-trick, you spurned several chances to pass to ethnic-minority members of your team. Furthermore, for your second goal you put the ball between the legs of the Pandas’ goalkeeper in a clear reference to their ongoing transition surgery. And for the third you did summarily take the ball from, or tackle, an opposing defender in flagrant disregard of his/her feelings. And that you celebrated your so-called achievements with a display of overt triumphalism. How do you plead?

Well, I was only doing what the coach told me to.

I repeat, how do you plead?

Er, guilty, I suppose.

The judge: Joshua Maitland-Whelk, you have admitted crimes which turn the stomach of all decent people. You and your parent will be taken from this place, turned upside down and shaken until all the money falls out of your pockets. And let this be a lesson to you.’

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to

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