The Manitoba Soccer Association is investigating a high school soccer match in Winnipeg Thursday night that turned violent.

Witnesses say a referee was attacked by players and fans from Gordon Bell High School during a game against Churchill High at the Tec Voc field.

After the 19-year-old referee issued several red cards to Gordon Bell players, witnesses said, the players turned on the referee, chasing him into the stands and allegedly assaulting him.

"The whole team just got out of control and chased him," said Diogo Costa, who saw the incident from his car.

"They ran all the way around pretty much the whole field and then he came back to the stands… and the parents were, like, trying to stop all the players from hitting him."

Some witnesses say they saw weapons, such as knives and a billiard ball inside of a sock.

Police were called to the scene. The referee was not seriously hurt.

Sean Drain, president of the Manitoba Soccer Association, says physical and verbal abuse of referees is making it more difficult to recruit and retain them — in both soccer and other sports.

"This incident has taken us several steps backwards. We find it very distressing and we are going to react to it," he said.

Sanctions likely

Association director Hector Vergara told CBC News a disciplinary committee is waiting for a report from the referee, the schools involved and the police before deciding what sanctions to impose.

"The range of disciplinary action could be anywhere from suspended from one game to suspended for life," he said.

"That's a very wide range, obviously, and it depends on the incidents that take place, who is involved, what the reasons are behind it, and all those things a disciplinary committee will review before it makes a decision."

Vergara says the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association is also involved in the investigation.

The Winnipeg School Division released a short statement saying it would not comment on the situation because it is under police investigation.

Policeare still interviewing witnesses and sayit's too early todetermine if charges will be laid.

Another soccer game scheduled for Friday night has been postponed until Monday.Soccer officials say police officers will be on site for the game.