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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK


'Kidnapped ref' poster attacked

Joke gone wrong: ASA said referee's eyes were full of fear

A poster showing a football referee bound and gagged in the back of a car has been condemned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

BBC's Kate Ferrand: "Referee had cuts and bruises and appeared frightened"
The Italian sportswear company Diadora said it never intended to cause offence with the advertisement which was a "tongue-in-cheek-" portrayal of the emotions a fan might feel towards a match official.

But the ASA said the poster, which showed cuts and bruises on the referee's legs, face and hands, was a joke which did not work.

The expression on the referee's face was one of fear as though he had been kidnapped, said the ASA, rejecting Diadora's claim that the poster was "slapstick" humour.

An ASA spokesman said it had upheld four complaints on grounds of taste and decency about the nationwide poster campaign, adding: "The joke went wrong. They just went to far."

'Totally unacceptable'

Diadora spokesman Chris Bird said the poster was intended as a humorous portrayal of the Italian passion about football.

He said: "This was one of a series of four or five posters on this theme.

[ image: Real life violence: Referee Hugh Dallas struck by coin from the crowd]
Real life violence: Referee Hugh Dallas struck by coin from the crowd
"Millions of people saw the ad and it only attracted four complaints."

But Peter Willis, president of the Referee's Association, which represents England's 34,000 referees said he had been "shocked" by the poster's content.

He said: "Last year there were approximately 350 assaults on referees in England and six of them were classed as serious physical assaults.

"In any sport it is not acceptable to show physical violence.

"A human being who has been bundled into a car and injured sends out all of the wrong messages about football.

"For a sports manufacturer, who relies on sporting people for business, this is totally unacceptable."

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