AN incident like the headline grabbing spat between Chelsea star Eden Hazard and a Swansea ball boy simply wouldn’t have happened on Joe Prinzi’s watch.
The Belgian was shown a red card and has subsequently been charged by the FA after attempting to get the ball back in the closing minutes of the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg, while 17-year-old ball boy Charlie Morgan was lying on top of it trying to run down the clock.
Prinzi co-ordinates the ball boys at the County Ground on a match day, leading an army of 15 youngsters aged between 12 and 16 taken largely from the Junior Reds supporters club, from his regular seat in the Arkell’s Stand.
Now in his fourth season in the role, Prinzi played a vital role in introducing a unique code of conduct which all prospective ball boys and their parents must sign, stating that they will get the ball back to both sides as quickly as possible without delaying the game.
Town have never encountered any problems with their ball boys and have never received a complaint from visiting sides, and Prinzi believes the whole incident in Wales could have been avoided if the Swans had a similar agreement in place.
“There are specific things in there which says the duty of the ball boys is to retrieve the ball from the area surrounding the pitch and any occupied stand area like the Stratton Bank,” he said. “They have to do so as quickly and safely as possible, their job is to get the ball back in play for both teams as quick as they can. It says in there they have a duty to treat each team fairly and not delay getting the ball back into play or give any team an advantage.
“We introduced it because we realised we didn’t have a code of conduct, and we thought it would be helpful to have one which the ball kids have to sign as well as the parents. I wouldn’t have thought many other clubs have anything like this.
“In terms of the incident at Swansea we have covered all of the factors of it in our code of conduct, and there is no way it would happen here. We have a good group of kids here and they know what they have to do, and we have never had any incidents of away managers or referees complaining about not getting the ball back quick enough.
“I like to think that we have the best ball boys in the league.”
Prinzi believes the referee was right to send Hazard off, but believes ball boy Morgan should take his fair share of blame.
“I think the ball boy was wrong for lying on the ball like he did, and Hazard was wrong for trying to kick the ball out from underneath him.
“He should have signalled to the linesman who was close to him to say he couldn’t get the ball,” he said.
“It was a cup tie in the closing minutes and they were trying to get back into the game, and it is hard to think what you would do in the same situation.
“It was disappointing to see the ball boy had gone on twitter before the game and said he would slow the game down, and when it turned out he was the son of one of the main shareholders it embarrassed the club.
“He has got a three match ban, but now he has been charged he could get a bit more and that is a bit over the top if you ask me.”