Assistant ref dropped from FA Cup tie after telling Manchester City players to thank fans who paid £62
An assistant referee from Leicester who told Manchester City players to thank fans who paid £62 to see their match against Arsenal was dropped from an FA Cup tie last night.
The words spoken by referee John Brooks were picked up by a camera at Arsenal's Emirates stadium on Sunday.
Mr Brooks, who is registered with the Leicestershire and Rutland County FA, told City defender Joleon Lescott at the end of their 2-0 away win: "They've paid 62 quid over there, go and see them."
The 22-year-old was due to assist at last night's FA Cup third-round replay between West Brom and QPR, but was dropped yesterday.
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The cost of tickets at the Emirates had been a talking point before the game on Sunday, with some Manchester City fans boycotting the match in protest.
The club is reported to have returned 900 of its 3,000 ticket allocation for the match.
Mr Brooks' comments – considered a welcome breath of fresh air by football pundits and non-sports fans alike – sparked a flurry of interview requests from print and broadcast journalists.
Sources at the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body that assigns referees and assistants to games, suggested dropping him as one of the two assistants at last night's match was to "protect" the young official.
A PGMOL source told the Leicester Mercury: "It's the FA's competition, they appoint the officials so it's their decision for him not to be at the game.
"Officials have to be 100 per cent focussed on the match. A lot of people have been calling him up since Sunday's game.
"We have a duty of care to protect officials so they can be 100 per cent focused on the game.
"He's a first year official who is coming through the ranks, and he's a good young official. We don't want people coming to football to speak to officials about officiating.
"The focus has to be on the football match – not the officials.
"It takes the focus off the most important thing – the game itself ."
Mr Brooks is in his first season as a Premier League assistant. For the majority of his matches, he has worked alongside Mike Dean, the referee at the Emirates on Sunday, and has been given a number of high-profile fixtures, including games at all the top Premier League clubs.
He was assistant to Dean at St Mary's for Chelsea's 5-1 win over Southampton in the third round of the FA Cup 11 days ago.
Leicestershire County and Rutland FA chief executive Keith Murdoch said he did not want to comment as it was not a local issue.