(Reuters) - Referee Lee Probert’s decision to book Demarai Gray for taking his shirt off in celebrating his Premier League winner for Leicester City against Cardiff City provoked a storm of criticism on social media on Saturday.
The occasion was charged with emotion following the death of Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash immediately after the club’s match last Saturday.
Before kickoff a wreath was laid and Leicester’s team linked arms for an immaculately observed a minute’s silence when a huge tribute banner was unfurled among the 3,000 visiting supporters.
The game turned on Gray’s 55th-minute goal, which sparked wild scenes.
In what appeared a pre-planned move, the 22-year-old immediately whipped off his top to reveal an undershirt saying “For Khun Vichai” in memory of the Thai billionaire.
Gray’s team mates joined him in front of the away contingent, many of whom also sported tee shirts honouring their former owner.
But the mood changed when referee Probert followed the letter of the law and booked Gray under a mandatory FIFA rule that says players must not remove their shirt over their head.
“Crazy - and disgusting - that Demarai Gray still gets a yellow card for taking his shirt off when it reads ‘For Vichai’,” one user wrote.
Former Liverpool and England defender Phil Thomson also criticised the decision on Sky Sports, saying that Probert should “get a life”.
But journalist Jacqui Oatley defended the referee.
“Harsh for people to hammer Lee Probert. Refs can’t decide on the spot which t-shirt messages are more poignant than others,” she said. “Ref would’ve hated booking him but felt he had to. No win situation.”
Leicester officials did not immediately comment on the incident.
Reporting by Neil Robinson, editing by Ed Osmond