Ex-ref demands Aleksandar Mitrovic gets ‘10-game ban’ for pushing official Chris Kavanagh

Aleksandar Mitrovic confronts referee Chris Kavanagh during the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford (AFP via Getty Images)
Aleksandar Mitrovic confronts referee Chris Kavanagh during the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford (AFP via Getty Images)

Aleksandar Mitrovic must be banned for 10 games after pushing referee Chris Kavanagh, according to the former refs’ chief Keith Hackett, to send a message to footballers at all levels that manhandling officials will not be tolerated.

Mitrovic angrily confronted Kavanagh during Fulham’s FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United after the official had sent off his Fulham teammate Willian, who had used his hand to clear Jadon Sancho’s goal-bound shot off the line and prevent United from equalising.

The Serbian striker barged Kavanagh’s arm and shouted and pointed in his face. The referee immediately showed a red card to Mitrovic, who responded by attempting to go chest to chest with the official, who backed away.

It capped off a 40-second implosion by Fulham which also saw manager Marco Silva sent off for his protestations, and, having been 1-0 ahead in the tie, they went on to lose the game 3-1.

Hackett, a former Premier League referee who headed up the referees’ body (PGMOL), said the Football Association must come down hard on Mitrovic.

“There can be little doubt the image of the game has been tarnished, and we know that what happens at elite level filters through to the grassroots,” Hackett warned, writing in the Daily Telegraph. “Referees at all levels feel vulnerable, and the FA have a duty of care to them in ensuring Mitrovic is punished in full to send a message that this kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Mitrovic faces an automatic three-game suspension for the red card, but the FA will now assess the incident with a view to whether the sanction should be increased. “We really need the sport’s governing body to take strong, decisive action,” Hackett said. “A three-game ban will not suffice, and if that is what happens it would send an awful message.”

It comes only two weeks after United midfielder Bruno Fernandes – who scored the resultant penalty against Fulham following Willian’s handball – was involved in a similar incident during a 7-1 defeat by Liverpool, pulling back an assistant referee’s arm, which went unpunished.

Hackett added: “We have seen an increase in dissent in recent weeks, and enough is enough. I was critical of the officials for not taking action against Bruno Fernandes when he laid his hands on the assistant referee during Manchester United’s game with Liverpool, but this was as clear as day.”