Sergio Aguero roundly criticised for laying hand on assistant official Sian Massey-Ellis

Manchester City v Arsenal Premier League. Picture By Richard Pelham - Richard PelhamManchester City v Arsenal Premier League. Picture By Richard Pelham - Richard Pelham
Manchester City v Arsenal Premier League. Picture By Richard Pelham – Richard Pelham

The national charity for football referees has called for a “line to be drawn in the sand” following what the shadow sports minister called the “horrendous” sight of Sergio Aguero placing his hand across Sian Massey-Ellis’s shoulder.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The incident, which occurred during Manchester City’s 1-0 win&nbsp;against Arsenal, prompted widespread condemnation on social media but did not result in a booking and will not be retrospectively punished.” data-reactid=”18″>The incident, which occurred during Manchester City’s 1-0 win against Arsenal, prompted widespread condemnation on social media but did not result in a booking and will not be retrospectively punished.

Aguero had stepped towards Massey-Ellis to complain about the award of a 42nd minute throw-in to Arsenal and then placed his left hand on the assistant referee’s neck and shoulder as she walked back up the touchline. Massey-Ellis gestured for Aguero to move away but, despite Premier League guidance in 2016 stating that any physical contact with an official should warrant a yellow card, Aguero was not cautioned. Retrospective action would only apply to missed red card offences for aggressive or confrontational behaviour and it was decided that the incident did not meet that threshold.

Alison McGovern, the shadow sport minister, described the incident as “horrendous” and took to Twitter to say “get your hands off her neck”. Her Labour colleague, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, said that Aguero’s behaviour was “completely unacceptable” and asked “who does he think he is?”

The charity Ref Support UK praised Massey-Ellis for how she reacted and said that Aguero should count himself fortunate. “We wouldn’t want to see Aguero red carded or suspended because that would dilute the real offence of referee abuse and assault but a line should be drawn in the sand to say, ‘You are lucky there’,’ said Martin Cassidy the chief executive of Ref Support. “It wasn’t his actions that prevented him getting in trouble – it was her response to his actions. She didn’t react. She was very controlled. Compare that to players who, if they are touched, we often see falling to the floor and rolling around.”

Cassidy also said that there was a direct connection between people seeing players think physical contact was acceptable at an elite level to “referees being manhandled in grassroots”. He added: “The natural instinct is then to think, it is OK to touch a referee which just makes you ask, ‘How do they view us?’”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was adamant that the incident was a non-issue when he was asked about it in the post-match press conference. “Come on guys,” he said. “Sergio is the nicest person I ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations not in this one.”” data-reactid=”28″>Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was adamant that the incident was a non-issue when he was asked about it in the post-match press conference. “Come on guys,” he said. “Sergio is the nicest person I ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations not in this one.”

Although there are other examples of footballers putting their hands on referees in a similar way, Keith Hackett, the former head of referees in England, said that such behaviour should always be stamped on.

“The failure of the referee to implement a sanction is frankly unacceptable,” he said. “This incident will cascade down to grassroots level.”

Micah Richards also criticised his former Manchester City team-mate. “He knows not to be touching the officials,” he said. “It’s just not a good look. You start going down a road you don’t want to go down – he should know better than that.”

Ian Wright, the former England striker, said that it was “unnecessary” and “patronising”.

Aguero himself has not commented but Gabrial Agbonlahor, the former Aston Villa striker, believes that he will regret his actions. “It just gives a bad example to kids out there playing football on a Sunday, it’s just something we shouldn’t be seeing in the Premier League,” he said. “He can easily tell her what he thought of the decision, but putting your hand on her there is quite shocking. I feel it’s something Aguero will have woken up to and definitely regretted. You just don’t put your hands on referees or assistant referees.”

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