Police have launched an investigation after a fight broke out at an under-nines football match in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, last weekend.
A football coach was assaulted and children as young as eight were left in tears, according to eyewitnesses at the match at Trubshaw Cross playing fields.
The kids’ sports clash between Unity FC U8 and Abbey Hulton Youth U9 saw one of the sides’ assistant managers knocked to the floor in front of children, parents and officials, a witness told StokeonTrentLive.
The witness, who was not named, said: “Other matches had to be temporarily paused whilst the incident was ongoing and children’s attention was diverted away.
The alleged assault, which took place in front of kids, parents and staff, happened at Trubshaw Cross playing fields (pictured)
“I don’t know what had gone on on the pitch to trigger what happened. His face was in quite a bad state… Lots of upset children.”
Staffordshire Police said a 43-year-old man from Stoke-on-Trent was arrested – and subsequently ‘de-arrested’ – on suspicion of assault.
The service said it was now investigating an allegation of misconduct and carrying out inquiries into the alleged assault.
A Staffordshire Police spokesperson said: “We were called at 12.05 pm on Sunday afternoon to reports of a fight at Trubshaw Cross playing fields on Westport Road, Burslem.
Trubshaw Cross fields, where the incident happened, as seen from Westport Road
“We attended and a 43-year-old man, from Stoke-on-Trent, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of a public order offence… Following enquiries, he was de-arrested.”
A spokesperson from Staffordshire FA said: “We have been made aware of an allegation of misconduct at a fixture between Unity FC U8 and Abbey Hulton United Youth U9 on Sunday, February 4, 2024.
“In response to this allegation, and in line with the FA Disciplinary process, we are committed to conducting a thorough investigation to ensure that all concerns and allegations are addressed appropriately.”
A spokesperson from the North Staffordshire Junior Youth League issued an identical statement.
The news comes amid growing reports of abusive behaviour in youth-level football across the country.
In a statement released in November 2023, Northumberland Football League secretary Lee Scott said: “The behaviour and conduct of far too many players, managers, coaches, and spectators is the worst we have ever seen.
“The discipline reports coming in over the first 10 weeks of the season, just to Northumberland Football Leagues, have given us and the County FA an incredible amount of work, on top of everything else we do to keep you playing football.
“I am not going to lecture adults on how they should behave, it’s not my job to teach you the difference between right and wrong, but what I will say is THIS BEHAVIOUR STOPS, AND IT STOPS NOW!”