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Red card for benefit scrounger who refereed 40 football matches... while claiming he couldn't walk


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Red card for benefit scrounger who refereed 40 football matches... while claiming he couldn't walk



By Sophie Freeman

Last updated at 12:27 PM on 27th November 2009



A football-mad benefits scrounger refereed more than 40 soccer matches - despite claiming he could barely walk.

Stephen Southern, 50, pocketed more than £11,000 in disability handouts after telling benefits officials that severe back pain meant he could barely hobble 30 yards.


He claimed he suffered 'chest pain and dizziness', could not dress himself, needed help to sit and stand, and wasn't able to lift his arms above his head.


But the Department for Work and Pensions secretly filmed him sprinting, twisting and turning as he officiated in a string of football matches.


Enlarge article-1231374-0760B61E000005DC-446_468x368.jpg Red card offence: Stephen Southern was pictured refereeig over 40 football matches across Lancashire


The footage showed him running between the goals, waving his arms about and jogging backwards.


The Lancashire Football Association confirmed that Southern had been a registered referee since May 2004 and in one season alone had taken charge of more than 40 matches.






Southern, of Wigan, was today handed an 18-month community order, ordered to complete 300 hours unpaid work and told to pay £200 costs.


article-1231374-0760E2B5000005DC-455_233x696.jpg Sentence: Southern arriving at Wigan Magistrates Court, where he received 300 hours community service


He is already voluntarily paying back £150 per month towards the overpayment.


Prosecuting, Katie Houghton told Wigan magistrates that Southern had been receiving disability living allowance since October 1999, due to severe back pain and an inflammation of his vertebra.

She said a requirement of the disability allowance was to make the DWP aware of any change or improvement in his condition.


But evidence showed that Southern had registered as a referee in May 2004.

Details of his refereeing credentials and the matches which he had officiated were obtained by the DWP, and a surveillance operation was carried out between the 23rd and 30th April this year.

Miss Houghton said: 'The defendant was seen officiating as a linesman for the full duration of the football matches.


'He was seen to jog, sprint, twist and turn, run backwards, wave his arms around and keep up with the pace of a match.


'At no time did he show visible signs of pain and discomfort.'

Southern pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change in circumstance which he knew would affect his entitlement. He failed to notify them of a 'material improvement' in his condition, falsely claiming £11,601.

Proceedings were halted briefly after Southern's wife fainted in the courtroom.


Defence lawyer Mr Martin Jones said his client had been awaiting the case with 'nervous, anxious trepidation'.


He said the claim had been legitimate at the outset, but that his client had accepted that he failed to notify the DWP of the improvement in his condition.


Southern's health had improved 'considerably' after a spinal block operation, he said.


'My client has no previous convictions,' Mr Jones added.


'His family are total and utter strangers to the court system, hence the obvious strain that it had placed on them.'

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