We’ve seen Eric Cantona kung-fu kick an opposition supporter. We’ve seen Patrice Evra kick a supporter of his own team. Now we can add to the list another Frenchman, only this time it’s not a player but referee Tony Chapron, and it wasn’t a fan he kicked but a player.

Football fans are accustomed to controversy when it comes to tackles and refereeing decisions. Rarely does weekend go by without discussion over whether it was or wasn’t a penalty, whether he got the ball, whether it was a deliberate foul etc. One thing that is for certain is such controversy almost invariably arises from tackles by players, not referees. In what could therefore a footballing first, last weekend’s Ligue 1 fixture between Nantes and PSG saw the referee in charge kick a defender.

Chapron, an experienced match official who has officiated in Ligue 1 since 2006, and Nantes defender Diego Carlos were running in the same direction when Carlos appeared to accidentally clip Chapron’s heels, sending him tumbling to the floor. It’s what happened next that attracted most attention: Chapron, seemingly out of frustration, reacted by swinging his leg out at Carlos, whom he then booked for dissent. It may not have had the acrobatic quality displayed by Cantona or Evra, but it’s no less controversial.

Although this incident happened in Ligue 1, let’s look at what the FA’s rules say on this. In England, The Professional Game Match Officials Ltd oversees referees. Appendix C to the ‘Regulations For The Registration And Control Of Referees’ states:

“Where an alleged offence is committed by a Referee whilst acting as a Match Official in any capacity (on or off the field) the matter will be dealt with by a Referees’ Committee or Commission thereof […]. In this and all other circumstances the Referee will be dealt with as any other Participant. Referees should be made aware of the process by which any acts of misconduct, or indiscipline in relation to their registration, will be dealt with by the Affiliated Association.”

The rule would appear to afford discretion to the appropriate committee or commission to handle indiscipline.

IFAB Law 5(6) concerns the ‘Liability of Match Officials’. The only provision that would seem to be of immediate relevance states:

“[a] referee or other match official is not held liable for […] any kind of injury suffered by a player, official or spectator”.

Presumably, the Rule didn’t envisage injuries resulting from the direct and deliberate actions of the referee.

In this particular instance, just to add insult to injury, Chapron showed a second yellow to Carlos in extra time and sent him off.

The French Football Federation (“FFF”) today released a statement saying:

“Following the incident late in the Nantes-Paris SG match, involving referee Mr Tony Chapron and Nantes player Mr Diego Carlos, the technical body for referees (DTA) and the federal commission of referees have taken the following decisions:

  • The withdrawal from duty of Mr Tony Chapron, initially appointed to referee the Angers SCO-ESTAC Troyes match in matchday 21 of Ligue 1 on Wednesday, January 17, until further notice.
  • Mr Tony Chapron will shortly be called to meet the LFP (French football league) disciplinary committee.

Mr Tony Chapron, after reviewing the images, stated that his fall was caused accidentally. He has informed the DTA that he has prepared a report to this effect for the LFP disciplinary commission.”

Nantes have also made a request to the FFF asking for Carlos’s second yellow and subsequent suspension to be overturned so that he is available to play in his side’s next match on Wednesday.