LEAGUE bosses are taking precautions to avoid a repeat of the mass brawl which led to the match between Budleigh Salterton and Axminster Town being abandoned last weekend when the two sides go head-to-head again this Saturday.
The Robins led the Division One East clash 3-0 at Greenway Lane on Saturday, when a 38th-minute red card led to a ruckus involving both sets of players, club officials and even fans, according to the referee's report.
The matter has been passed on to the Devon FA, who will decide what punishments to administer, as well as whether to replay the game, allow the scoreline to stand or declare the fixture null and void.
The two sides meet again in a rescheduled match at Sector Lane this Saturday, and league company secretary Phil Hiscox explained that various safeguards were being put in place in a bid to avoid any potential flare-ups.
"We are not pre-judging anything but we just want to avoid any further trouble between the two sides," he said.
"We have taken various steps to try and avoid any more issues between the two clubs.
"There will be neutral officials supplied and the two clubs are going to have to share the cost of that between themselves, while there will also be league officials in attendance to watch the match."
With the matter now in the hands of the Devon FA, it is not yet known when any potential disciplinary action might be taken against the two clubs involved.
Once a decision is made, they will both have 14 days in which to respond to any charges brought against them.
Hiscox said it was still not clear how the incident began, but insisted that the league supported the referee's decision to abandon proceedings.
"The league backs the referee's decision – we are here to have a game of football, not a mass brawl," he said.
"It was obviously a brawl and the referee has picked up the ball, called it off and gone home, as is his right. By the sounds of it, it was big and the referee did not overreact by calling it off.
"The referee's report states that the fight involved both sets of players and club officials.
"There is also the allegation that fans were involved, and that it started after a player was sent off for a headbutt, although how long after, we don't know.
"I have never known a game to be stopped because of the conduct of both teams. I have known teams to stop after having too many players sent off, but not this."
Budleigh Salterton have responded by releasing the following statement: "The officials and management committee at Budleigh Salterton Football Club are extremely sorry that it was our club which became involved in an unsavoury incident which led the match referee to abandon the game after just 38 minutes.
"This is especially exasperating because, at the time, we were leading the game by 3-0 and fully in control.
"We are collating information from various sources but, given the general circumstances, we anticipate action will be taken by the Devon FA.
"If that occurs, the matter will effectively be sub judice and it would not be proper to add anything further at this stage."
Axminster Town have also released the following statement: "All the club would like to say at this point is that there were some regrettable incidents involving both Budleigh and Axminster at the recent fixture.
"The club are apologetic for their part in these incidents. The club are awaiting contact from the Devon FA, and will look to follow up from the Devon FA accordingly."
Prior to the abandonment, the Robins were cruising after scoring goals through Carl Everest, Mark Lever and Jack Greenslade.