It's good to see that the British still love being violent towards one another....
Fists and chairs fly as football league match descends into a mass brawl
By LIZ HULL
14th February 2008
With the teams level-pegging on points in the league table, it was always going to be a mouth-watering clash when the amateur football rivals took to the pitch for a crunch game.
But what happened next stunned the referee, players and fans alike.
Just five minutes in, a verbal altercation led to a sending-off and sparked a mass brawl on the pitch.
Punches were traded between players and opposing fans, who even picked up chairs and launched them at each other, prompting the terrified referee to call police and stop the game.
Trouble on the pitch: A blow appears to hit its mark during the match before police are called
Melee: Punches are thrown as players from Heywood St James and Salford Victoria tangle
Uniformed officers escorted David Shipp, the official in charge, off the pitch and at least one person was treated in hospital after being struck by a flying chair.
News of the melee comes a day after the Football Association announced that amateur footballers will face an instant red card for swearing as part of a zero tolerance approach to bad language next season.
The move, which could be adopted by the Premiership if successful, was prompted by criticism from parents and campaigners that young people are copying the behaviour of their favourite players - who appear to get away with directing foul and abusive language at officials week after week.
Police and FA chiefs yesterday confirmed they had launched an investigation into the chaotic scenes which occurred when Heywood St James took on Salford Victoria - rival amateur teams in the Manchester League - last Saturday.
Calm down: Referee David Shipp tries to defuse the violence before abandoning the game
Danny Dyson, chairman of Heywood St James, said: "There was a bit of an off-the ball scuffle and the next minute all hell broke out.
"They had only played four or five minutes and the referee hadn't even blown his whistle for a foul before the fighting started.
"I don't want to say any more until I've seen the referee's report, but I've never seen anything as disgusting in all my years of football."
Eyewitnesses said the match, at Heywood St James's Phoenix Ground, Heywood, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was less than five minutes old when a row broke out between two opposing players.
One of them was sent off but then came back onto the pitch in a rage.
In the brawl that ensued, a chair was thrown through the window of the home side's dressing room, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage.
Anger: A player brandishes a lump of wood. No arrests were made
St James's trainer Lee Young was taken to Fairfield Hospital, near Bury, suffering from a broken finger and a damaged nose when he was also hit by a chair.
Dennis Booth, a fan who watched the chaotic scenes, described it as "sickening".
He said: "There were less than five minutes on the clock. It was unbelievable. I'm not sure what ignited the flare-up but I must say the referee was brilliant throughout."
A spokesman for Greater Manchester police said they were investigating allegations of affray, criminal damage and assault, although no arrests had yet been made.
Chris Carney, chairman of Salford Victoria , said he was waiting to hear from the FA.
He added: "I'm very upset with the situation - it's something that I have never seen before."
Both teams play in Division One of the Manchester League. Before last Saturday's game they were tied on an equal 21 points - 23 points off the top of the table - with Salford Victoria one position ahead of their rivals because of a superior goal difference.