An amateur footballer who shouted homophobic abuse at a gay referee has pleaded guilty in court.

Appearing yesterday at Perth Sheriff Court, Dale Ritchie, 25, admitted to a charge of breaching the peace aggravated by prejudice against sexual orientation.

The father of two was suspended by Perth United after calling Joe Richardson a “faggot” and a “poof” during a match last year in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire.

Ritchie told Mr Richardson that he was only a referee in order to “watch boys in tight shorts”.

The court heard Ritchie had been drinking on the sidelines before making the remarks at Mr Richardson.

Prosecutor Robbie Brown told Perth Sheriff Court: “[Ritchie] called him faggot, poof, and as he was leaving the pitch at the end he was told the only reason he was refereeing was so he could watch boys in tight shorts.”

Exiting court after yesterday’s conviction, the Daily Record reports Ritchie branded the case against him “ridiculous”. He later refused to explain what he meant.

Speaking to the Record, Mr Richardson said: “I was very hurt and angry. I knew there wasn’t very much I could do while I was refereeing, but I spoke to him after the game with his coach present to tell him I’d be reporting it and I wouldn’t let it slide.

“At that point he denied it and said his mother-in-law was gay, so why would he be homophobic?

“I’d refereed that guy for five years and not once had he said anything like that.

“Even players that laughed at the incident at the time contacted me privately on Facebook to say no one else in the league thinks like that. I’ve had a lot of support from other players.”

Mr Richardson claims he had to quit as a referee after the Angus and Perthshire Referees Association failed to back him over Ritchie’s abuse.

He said: “Because the association didn’t give me the support at the time, I spoke out against them and I ended up suspended. They preferred the whole matter to be swept under the carpet.”

Ritchie, who has a previous 2006 conviction for racially aggravated breach of the peace, will be sentenced next month.

PinkNews has contacted the Angus and Perthshire Referees Association for comment.