A former Serie A referee sacked after suspending a game for racist abuse insists he would do the exact same thing again – as he revives his career in England's non-league.
Claudio Gavillucci lost his dream job as a top flight Italian official in 2018 just weeks after he called a game between Sampdoria and Napoli to a halt due to vile taunts from the crowd.
In doing so, he became the first-ever Serie A referee to take such action against racism.
On the record, Gavillucci's sacking was for ‘technical performances’, but he disputes the fact and claims it was down to his hard stance against racism and vehemently appealed the decision.
With no future in football in Italy, the 40-year-old moved to England and set up base on the Wirral in order to link up with associates of the food company he founded – and swiftly put a call into Cheshire FA over getting back out onto the pitch.
He has now been spending his weekends officiating the likes of Widnes FC and Nantwich Town before being promoted to the National League North this summer.
On Monday night, he oversaw Curzon Ashton and Alfreton Town's 1-1 draw, the season opener and his first game at the level.
But if he is faced with racism again, just as he was in Italy, he insists he would do the exact same thing.
“I wouldn't hesitate for a minute and I'd take exactly the same decision,” Gavillucci said. “Racism is evil and it must be eradicated no matter which country it is in.
“I made the decision to temporarily suspend the game following discriminatory chants directed towards the Neapolitans and the player Kalidou Koulibaly.
“It was the first time a referee had halted a match in Italy for discriminatory chanting.
“The reasons given by the Italian Football Association for my dismissal following that season was that the decision was based on the technical results of my overall performances.
“Unfortunately, I will never have clarity as up until last season, there was no transparency around the marks and performances of referees in Serie A like there is in England.”
As disappointing as his dismissal was, Gavillucci has since immersed himself in the culture of English non-league football as he balanced his business with getting back out onto the pitch.
Communication was an initial hiccup, but his games now flow more than they ever did in Italy.
And the joy of the post-match pint is a new tradition he has got completely on board with.
He said: “Being back refereeing in leagues where football is purely about fun – and doing so in the homeland where the Laws of the Game were born – is certainly a unique experience for somebody like me who loves the game.
“As an example, it may not be Juventus, but refereeing the oldest team in the world, Sheffield FC, will remain among the best memories of my career.
“I love English football and especially the fact that in the lower levels of the game you can still feel the true essence of football.
“The fact that the players on the pitch think about playing football and don’t ask for a foul at every contact, like players do in Italy, is fantastic.
“In England, I sometimes end matches with only 10 to 15 fouls in total, which is unthinkable in Italy where the average is about 30 fouls per match.
“I like that the stadiums have no barriers and that fans are very close to the pitch, and that this is not a risk for the referees.
“In Italy, this would not be possible, especially in the lower leagues, where there are around 300 acts of violence towards referees each year.
“I also love the ‘third half’ after the match in the social room with both teams – it is a habit that I would have liked to have when I was refereeing in Italy!”
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