Is it because I'm ginger?
Paul Dyke's ginger hair got Burridge on national TV in 2007. He wrote 933 cross words in a letter to the Southern Daily Echo, asking what right referee, Mark Rayment, had in using his hair colour as means to verbally abuse him. Rayment had answered Dyke's latest offside appeal by saying, “oi ginger, shut up,” during the second half of Burridge's bad tempered 4-2 defeat at Bishopstoke on 23rd December 2006. Dyke thought he was being discriminated against because of his hair colour. He believed he had an argument. His team mates agreed. Unfortunately for Dyke they agreed with the referee.
Referees have come to expect an earful of abuse during a game. Sometimes worse. 4 years earlier Burridge locked a referee in the changing room. It was for his own safety and once he came round from the right hook thrown by one of the four Orca Marine players he'd already sent off during the first half of an abandoned cup tie, he was smuggled safely outside to his car. Burridge never saw that referee again, while whoever walloped him got two months inside. Incidents like this weren't isolated and the Football Association were forced to react. They put their weight behind a campaign called respect the ref, but Dyke thought that respect was a two way street and that punishment should be dished out to Rayment for what he'd said.
When the Echo ran the story about Dyke's hair on January 6th 2007 the Burridge dressing room was unanimous. Punishment should be swift and severe. And if there was any justice in the world Dyke would never be allowed within 500 yards of a typewriter ever again. The following Monday BBC South Today interviewed Dyke at his flat in Sholing about ginger discrimination, and later that evening BBC's current affairs programme, Newsnight, asked pro ginger lobbyists, Red and Proud, if ginger haired people were discriminated against, before interviewing Paul Dyke while the television pictures showed coverage of him kicking a ball around on his tarmac drive way.
When they cut back to the studio, presenter Gavin Esler's facial expression was that of a man questioning if such items would be broadcast if regular anchor Jeremy Paxman was presenting the show. That or he was appalled at Dyke's attempts to control a football. When the Daily Echo's news desk asked to send a photographer down to Burridge's next game to get pictures of Burridge players wearing ginger wigs there was one player opposed to the idea. “If I had turned up and there had been a photographer there, I would have walked away,” said Dyke. “And then there is no real story.”
Neither Burridge nor Dyke investigated whether or not Rayment was punished by the Hampshire Football Association. Not unless they'd planned for him to choke to death on his tongue. He was playing football for Southampton referees when his head accidentally collided with one of the opposition's shoulders. Down he went, out cold. Had Andy Dine, another referee, not stuck his hand down Rayment's throat and pulled his tongue free, Rayment would have died on the astro-turf at Wide Lane.
2 years have passed since Gingergate. Paul Dyke is still an accountant, but he no longer plays for Burridge, while Mark Rayment hasn't refereed a Burridge game since.