A GAY referee said he was forced to give up officiating after being subjected to homophobic abuse during a match.

Joe Richardson, 29, claimed a lack of support from football's governing bodies forced him to quit, as his abuser was convicted yesterday.

Builder Dale Ritchie, 25, admitted subjecting the amateur referee to anti-gay abuse while he was in charge of a match in April last year.

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Perth Sheriff Court was told that Ritchie called the referee homophobic names before directing a stream of abuse at him at the end of the match.

The incident happened during a match between Perth United and Bridge of Earn amateurs at Victory Park in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire.

Ritchie, of Newhouse Road, Perth, admitted breaching the peace by shouting homophobic remarks to Mr Richardson. He admitted the offence was aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation.

His solicitor, Billy Somerville, played down the offence and said it was created under new legislation in 2009.

He added: "I can only imagine that if everyone at a football match who made derogatory remarks to the referee was prosecuted, then the prosecutor would be snowed under."

But Sheriff Lindsay Foulis said he accepted that remarks were often made, but pointed out the majority of them were not of a prejudicial nature covered by the new law. He said that was backed up by the public outcry created by the racial abuse of schoolboy player Jordan Tapping, who left the field in tears after a weekend match at Peterhead, when he was subjected to racist abuse.

The sheriff noted that Ritchie, who is unemployed, had a previous conviction for a racially aggravated breach of the peace and deferred sentence for reports until April.

Openly gay Mr Richardson, from Dundee, said he gave up football after "six months of hell and lack of support" from the local referees' association. Mr Richardson said he also had his phone stolen while he was in charge at a Scottish Women's Football League match on September 1 at Glenesk Park in Dundee, between Tayside Ladies and Jeanfield Swifts LFC.

"The matter was reported to the police and to date no one has been found for the theft and all attempts to discuss the matter with the club, SFA, SWFL and the local referee association have proved fruitless. All parties are refusing to accept liability so I am left out of pocket," he said.

Mr Richardson reported the incidents to the head of refereeing John Fleming and SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, but was told it was a matter for the local referees' association.

He said he was frustrated by the lack of action and berated the authorities on Facebook. As a result of his comments, he was expelled. The Angus and Perthshire Referees Association made no comment.