HENLEY Town’s reserves team has resigned from the East Berkshire Football League amid claims that players were threatened at their match last Saturday.
Reserve team manager Jim Nightingale and assistant manager Albie Stevenson have resigned from their positions following their team’s 4-3 defeat by FC Beaconsfield.
About half of the Henley team said they were unwilling to continue playing in the league after claiming they were spat at and verbally abused during the game in Beaconsfield.
The league has launched an investigation while the Henley team hopes to be able to join division two of the Hellenic League.
In a letter to the East Berkshire league, Henley Town club secretary Tony Kingston said the match had been the “final straw” after the team experienced similar abuse during a 3-2 win over Slough side Lynch Pin a few weeks earlier. “Withdrawing has been in our thoughts since the match at Lynch Pin when our players and the linesman had continual verbal abuse from the Lynch Pin players and supporters,” he wrote.
Mr Kingston told the Henley Standard: “We have had a couple of games this year where the behaviour from the opposition has been absolutely disgusting.
“At the most recent game there were verbal threats like ‘we’ll have you’ and ‘we’ll stab you’ during the game.
“The trouble is that we can’t take it any further if the referees don’t include the threats in their match reports and they don’t because they are frightened and intimidated.”
Mr Kingston claimed that a linesman at the Lynch Pin game felt so threatened by the opposition when he made a decision they didn’t agree with that he didn’t go into the changing room to collect his fees after the game. Mr Stevenson said he had never experienced such bad behaviour in the 55 years that he has been involved in football.
“I have seen a lot of things but nothing compares with this,” he said.
“I have been involved in the club because I enjoy football but when you go to a match and the other side are threatening the referee and the linesmen and intimidating people then I don’t want to be a part of it any more.”
Peter Sinclair, a member of the reserve side’s committee, said: “Our reserve team is about playing football and progressing players into the first team.
“Some of the football in the East Berks League is not of a standard that anyone should be playing. Most of the players seem to be there for a fight rather than to play football.
“Most of our players were quite shocked and disturbed by it. It is not what we are used to and it is not behaviour that we expect.”
Mr Sinclair, whose son, Craig, plays for the team, added: “The officials from the East Berks league should go to watch what is happening because it can’t just be happening at our games.
“They need to take some responsibility and clamp down on it.”
The Henley reserves team was re-established this season to give budding first team players the opportunity to play on a regular basis.
The side entered the premier division of the East Berkshire league because they wanted to minimise travel.
Robin Woolman, chairman of East Berkshire Football League, said: “We are making investigations into the reasons why Henley have left the league.
“No referee has reported anything and until we have had a meeting and discussed matters I cannot make any further comment.”
lThe reserves team will play in the Reading Junior Cup at home on Saturday.