Turkey Gives Football Referees Red Card After Failed Coup

Besiktas fans
Besiktas football club supporters shout slogans during a protest against the military coup on Taksim square in Istanbul on July 23. Turkey's football federation has sacked 94 officials and referees in the wake of the failed coup. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

The wide-ranging crackdown in the wake of Turkey's failed military coup has taken on a new and surprising target—football referees.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announced on Tuesday that it had fired 94 officials, including referees, in the wake of the attempted takeover by a faction within Turkey's military. The TFF said that those dismissed included "regional and nationally ranked referees and assistant referees, regional refereeing committee members and national and regional observers," in a statement reported by AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed the coup on Fethullah Gulen and his followers. Gulen is an Islamic cleric who is based in Pennsylvania but has a wide following across Turkey and other countries—his movement runs a network of schools spanning some 140 countries. Turkish officials have demanded that Gulen be extradited from the United States in the wake of the coup, but the cleric has condemned the coup and called accusations that he is responsible "insulting."

The referees and football officials have not been named. Members of the TFF's affiliated boards resigned over the weekend to allow for security inspections to take place, as the federation and its affiliates were checked for links with Gulen's movement.

The post-coup purge has spread throughout all walks of Turkish life, with more than 60,000 people in various fields—including the military, education, civil service and judiciary—have been detained, removed from their posts or suspended due to alleged links with Gulen.

The coup has also had an impact on football. On the night of the July 15 coup, Turkish television showed a helicopter hijacked by coup plotters landing in the middle of the pitch at top-flight club Besiktas's stadium. The club's star striker, Germany's Mario Gomez, announced on July 20 that he was leaving the club due to the "terrible events that happened in the last few days," in reference to the coup.

But despite a state of emergency being in place in Turkey, TFF President Yıldırım Demirören has said that all international and domestic matches will proceed as planned.