Turkey referee punch: Turkish FA say referee is not going to quit

There is “no possibility” referee Halil Umut Meler will quit after being punched in a Turkish top-flight match, says the country’s football federation chief Mehmet Buyukeksi.

All leagues were suspended but the TFF say they will resume on 19 December.

Meler was released from hospital on Wednesday with a swollen eye.

The 37-year-old is one of Turkey’s top referees and officiates international games for Fifa.

He is also on Uefa’s elite referee list and Buyukeksi said in a news conference on Wednesday that he still expects Meler to officiate at Euro 2024 in Germany.

“We expect Halil Umut Meler to take part in Euro 2024. There is no possibility of him quitting refereeing right now,” said Buyukeksi.

Turkish football bosses suspended all leagues following the incident but Buyukeksi added: “We had decided to postpone the matches in all leagues indefinitely. With the decision we took today, all leagues will restart on Tuesday, December 19.”

Buyukeksi said the football federation’s disciplinary committee would “do what is necessary and announce its decision on Thursday”.

“There is never any room for violence in the game. What happened in the match is in no way acceptable,” he said.

“We will show zero tolerance for any similar incident on or off the field, and we will not tolerate any action against our referees and the refereeing institution.”

This week’s postponed games will be played on 10 January.

After Koca punched Meler to the ground, he received several blows from others as he lay on the turf, and suffered injuries including a minor fracture.

The incident sparked chaotic scenes involving players and club officials.

Mehmet Yorubulut, chief of medicine at Acibadem Hospital, said Meler has a swollen eye but is in “good condition”.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two others had been arrested after prosecutors took statements and a judicial control decision had been imposed on three other suspects.

Koca later issued a statement via Ankaragucu saying he had resigned as club president and apologised for his actions, saying he felt “great embarrassment” for the “grave incident” he caused.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Meler in hospital and said the incident had “saddened and disturbed” him.

The TFF said Ankaragucu, its chairman, club officials and all those guilty of attacking the referee will be “punished in the strongest terms possible”.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said the incident was “totally unacceptable” and violence has “no place in our sport or society”.

Halil Umut Meler leaving hospital
Match official Meler (centre) was seen leaving hospital with a bruised eye in Ankara, Turkey on Wednesday

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