The former Premier League referee Bobby Madley has opened up about the “dark-humoured joke” that cost him his job.
Madley ceased officiating at the highest level in England in August 2018, with the refereeing body Professional Game Match Officials Limited saying only that he was relocating due to a change in personal circumstances.
Madley did move to Norway, where his partner is from, but only after he was sacked for sending a video to someone he “trusted” which apparently mocked a disabled person.
In a long post on therefereesword.blogspot.com Madley explained that he took the video as a response to ribbing about a parents’ race at his daughter’s school and a newspaper article written by former referee Mark Halsey claiming he was making mistakes because he was overweight.
Madley wrote: “The full page and headline of ’Blobby Bobby’ may seem funny to some but, trust me, being fat shamed in a national newspaper is not a nice feeling.
“As I sat in my car with my phone in hand, a person walked past my car in front of me who had a walking impairment. The next part I am ashamed of. I took a six-second film, I said nothing. I did this in Snapchat, which is where I take all of my films that I intend to save to my phone.
“On the video I wrote, ‘F**k me I have a chance of winning the parents race this year.’ Out of context I accept this reads shamefully. I accept that. However, my intention was that the joke was aimed at myself.
“Had I have sent this to anyone on Snapchat, then I would accept the decision that later came as a result. I didn’t do that, though. I saved it to my phone. I sent it as a private text to somebody who I trusted. Somebody who understood the context of previous sports day comments and was aware of the fat shaming I had received.
“I regret taking the video, I regret sending that video and, whilst it was a dark-humoured joke, it was just that. A joke. It was not intended to shame anyone, it was not intended to be seen by anyone other than the person I sent it privately to in a text message on my own personal phone.”
Madley claimed the recipient of the video sent it to his employers and a disciplinary hearing resulted in his immediate dismissal.
“At that point my world fell apart,” said Madley. “Whilst I absolutely understand the importance of an employer taking discrimination seriously, as they did, the decision to this day still stuns me.
“I will never be able to accept that the decision taken was either necessary nor was it proportionate to the act.”
Madley, who is 34, also detailed the threats and abuse he has received as a result of media stories surrounding his dismissal and the effect the whole episode has had on his life.
“The last 18 months have been mental torture for me and, but for those close friends and family around me, as well as a strong partner, I dread to think what could have become,” he said.
“I still struggle to sleep, I still suffer mentally day to day to try to find the person I am now rather than clinging to the person I once was.”