Former Premier League referee Bobby Madley has revealed he was sacked after filming a video appearing to mock a disabled person.
In a blog post, Madley said he was dismissed in August 2018 for “gross misconduct on grounds of discrimination”.
At the time, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) said he had “decided to relocate due to a change in his personal circumstances”.
“I’m not proud of myself,” Madley said.
“I have to live with this for the rest of my life. It destroyed my career, my reputation and caused immeasurable damage to my family life.”
Madley, 34, said he texted a video to a friend where he mocked a disabled person ahead of his daughter’s sports day.
He said he had previously joked with other parents about his non-participation in a parents race and had been “fat shamed” in a national newspaper.
In the video, Madley mocked that he “had a chance of winning the parents race this year”.
The video then appears to have been passed on to his employers after he fell out with the recipient.
“Out of context I accept this reads shamefully,” Madley said in the blog post. “I accept that. However my intention was that the joke was aimed at myself.
“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 (not a work phone).”
Madley was one of 18 full-time professional referees and took charge of 91 top-flight matches since 2013.
He refereed the 2017 Community Shield at Wembley and oversaw 19 Premier League games in 2017-18.
“I started refereeing at 16, my career was over at 32,” he said. “I had my dream job, a well-paid and incredibly enjoyable job that I loved every single minute of.
“The footballs and medals are now all I have to remember those years of dedication and hard work.
“I try to help young referees where possible, offering advice on their own blossoming refereeing careers. I stand proud on there to support the fight against racism and to support all within the LGBT community both inside and outside of football.
“I am far from a discriminatory person and yet that is what I am labelled as when you Google my name. That hurts.
“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. “