A Turkish court ordered the arrest on Tuesday of Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca for punching a referee in the face at the end of a Super Lig football match, the justice minister said after the outbreak of violence in the European top-tier league.

The court also remanded in custody two other suspects over the incident at Ankaragucu’s home match against Rizespor on Monday evening, at which referee Halil Umut Meler was also later kicked while lying on the pitch.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) said it had suspended all leagues after the “shameful” incident in Ankara.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said Koca and two others were formally arrested for “injuring a public official” after prosecutors took statements from them.

“The investigation is continuing meticulously,” he said on social media platform X, adding judicial controls were imposed on three other suspects.

Koca entered the field and hit Meler when the final whistle blew after Rizespor scored a 97th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Eryaman Stadium, footage from state broadcaster TRT showed.

The referee was lying in a hospital bed with a swollen face and a neck brace, footage provided by the ministry showed.

“The bleeding in Meler’s left eye started to decrease” and there will be no permanent damage, said Mehmet Yorubulut, chief doctor of Acibadem hospital.

“The fracture there will gradually heal. There is no brain damage,” he said, adding he will likely be discharged on Wednesday.

The club president Koca was twice elected to Turkey’s parliament as part of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party.

While Erdogan said on platform X that violence has no place in sport, Koca was quoted as blaming the referee in part for his actions.

“This incident developed due to the wrong decisions and provocative behaviour of the referee. My aim was to react verbally to the referee and spit in his face,” Koca told the court, according to Demiroren News Agency.

“At this time, I slapped the referee in the face. The slap I gave would not cause a fracture. After my slap, the referee threw himself on the ground. They immediately removed me from the scene because I have a heart condition,” Koca was quoted as saying.

After the match, footage showed Ankaragucu fans invaded the pitch and Meler was also kicked when he fell. He eventually made it to the dressing room with the help of the police.

The federation said Ankaragucu, its chairman, club officials and all those guilty of attacking the referee will be “punished in the strongest terms possible”.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the events that took place after the match were “totally unacceptable and have no place in our sport or society”.

“Without match officials there is no football,” he added.

Cyprus Turkish football association (CTFA) chairman Hasan Sertoglu meanwhile called the punch “attempted murder”.

In a statement, he said “the actions of a club chairman … deeply hurt me both as a human being and as a football administrator. Football managers and club chairmen get angry from time to time, and as a reaction, swear words and insults may come out of their mouths. These are normal things.”

“However … last night’s incident is completely equivalent to attempted murder. The club’s chairman punches a referee, the referee falls to the ground, and then they continued to kick him on the ground with the aim of crushing his head,” he said.

He added, “this is absolute brutality, those who do such things are nowhere near humanity. This is a great shame.”
“Everyone involved in this incident must be immediately banned from football and legal action must be taken at once. We have many lessons to learn from this incident. We must stop targeting referees,” he said.

A FIFA referee since 2017, 37-year-old Meler took charge of Lazio’s Champions League group game with Celtic on Nov. 28.

Referees in Turkey are often criticised by club managers and presidents for their decisions but are rarely the target of violent attacks.

Ankaragucu are 11th in the standings on 18 points, three places below Rizespor on 22 points after 15 matches. It is unclear when Super Lig matches will resume.