Investigation launched after rugby league referee allegedly assaulted during Leeds National Conference derby

An investigation has been launched after an alleged attack by a player on a referee led to a Leeds derby being abandoned.

A player has been 'stood down' by his club following an alleged assault on a referee.
A player has been 'stood down' by his club following an alleged assault on a referee.

The National Conference and RFL will deal with the incident which occurred during a game between Milford and Oulton Raiders.

Visitors Oulton led 8-0 shortly before half-time of last week’s fixture when referee Joe Stearne was allegedly assaulted by a Milford player and the game was immediately called off.

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The player has been “stood down” by Milford, who have issued a statement condemning the incident.

It said: “First and foremost, we send our best wishes to the referee involved.

“The player has been involved at our club from the juniors and we have never witnessed anything like this from him in 20 years.

“That said, our club is built on strong foundations which absolutely include ‘RESPECT’ and such behaviour will not be tolerated in any way.”

Milford confirmed: “He has been stood down from playing duties whilst we conduct an internal investigation and we will fully cooperate with the external investigation taking place.

“Until these investigations are concluded, we will be making no further comment.”

The RFL stressed their first priority was “the health and well-being of the match official involved”.

A spokesperson said: “We are grateful to the Milford club officials for their support following the incident.

“The offending player will be dealt with through the usual disciplinary processes, working with the National Conference League.”

Stearne, of the Castleford and Featherstone Referees’ Society, is a grade one official.

A former National Conference referee of the year, he has officiated as a touch judge at Super League level.

In June last year he ran four marathons in as many weeks to raise funds for the NHS.

The RFL spokesperson added: “He is receiving support from the RFL’s match officials’ department, while Rugby League Cares’ support is also there if necessary.”

A disciplinary hearing is expected to be held on Friday.

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