Hougang official cleared of hitting Balestier player

FAS disciplinary committee gives benefit of doubt to Tay over slapping Austrian Vrebac

Hougang United general manager Matthew Tay has been acquitted of slapping Balestier Khalsa player Sanjin Vrebac.

A Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman told The Straits Times: "The FAS disciplinary committee, having heard evidence from the match officials, team officials, the players and witnesses produced, was unable to conclusively ascertain whether or not Balestier Khalsa FC player Sanjin Vrebac was slapped by Matthew Tay of Hougang United.

"Given the circumstances, Tay was given the benefit of doubt and was found not guilty of the charge of slapping Sanjin Vrebac."

Tay had been informed of the decision on Tuesday.

The Austrian player, 18, had alleged that the official had hit him at the end of the Aug 15 Singapore Premier League match that Balestier won 2-1 at the Hougang Stadium.

The incident had followed a heated end to the match, where players shoved each other after Vrebac caught Hougang's Fabian Kwok in the face in an aerial challenge.

The player had swelling and redness under his left eye from the later incident with Tay.

WRONGLY INTERPRETED

It has always been my assertion that my gesture was unfortunately misconstrued when it was meant to be a sporting gesture.

MATTHEW TAY , Hougang United's general manager, on being acquitted by the FAS disciplinary committee of slapping Balestier Khalsa player Sanjin Vrebac.

The Tigers subsequently lodged a formal complaint with the FAS, while Tay denied slapping Vrebrac and told ST then that he wanted to tap the player on the shoulder to say "Good game", but accidentally struck the back of his head.

Tay, 40, told ST: "I always have faith and trust in the disciplinary committee, who were very thorough in deliberating all the evidence before them.

"They were not convinced I was guilty based on the totality of the evidence put forth and hence acquitted me of the charge.

"It has always been my assertion that my gesture was unfortunately misconstrued when it was meant to be a sporting gesture.

"I'm heartened to be vindicated and am thankful for the fullest support and trust of everyone in Hougang United, my friends and, most importantly, my family who stood by me during this difficult period."

Balestier general manager Cheng Tim Nee said his club will abide by the disciplinary committee's decision and had no further comment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2018, with the headline 'Hougang official cleared of hitting Balestier player'. Print Edition | Subscribe