Football referee has life ban reduced to three years

An appeals board rules that a life ban from football for referee Jude Utulu was exaggerated and reduced this to three years

Referee Jude Utulu
Referee Jude Utulu

A football referee had his life ban from the sport replaced by a three-year ban on appeal after he was found to have acted in “an ingenious manner”.

Jude Utulu had been banned for life lsdt November by the referees’ disciplinary sub-committee after he was accused of acting as a player agent. The ruling was substituted with a three-year ban by the appeals board set up in terms of the Malta Football Association statute.

The Nigerian man had refereed the game between Mosta and Balzan, which the former lost. After the match, Adrian Farrugia, a Mosta FC club sponsor, filed a complaint against the referee, accusing him of being a player agent for his own team.

The appeals board took note of the referee observation’s report drawn up by the MFA official after the match. Utulu’s performance was rated by the match official at a high of 8.3 out of 10.

Utulu’s lawyer argued that this clearly indicated that the refereeing was of a high standard.

In its decision, the appeals board explained that from the facts it resulted that after being approached by Adrian Farrugia himself in 2015 as to whether Utulu could help him find some Nigerian player who might be interested to play in Malta. Utulu put him in touch with the manager of his brother. In 2017, Farrugia sent Utulu another similar message and once again Utulu had replied by putting him in touch with the same manager.

The board ruled that these interactions with a person associated with a club constituted an engagement which should have been disclosed by the referee to the officer in charge of appointing referees and to the Chairman of the Referee’s Board.

The board said Utulu was “unknowingly but still inexcusably acting in an ingenious manner” and ruled that the lifetime ban was “highly exaggerated and inappropriate”.

Utulu was assisted by lawyer Joe Giglio.

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