KUALA LUMPUR: An off-the-ball incident during the Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT)-Terengganu FC Malaysia Cup semi-final, first-leg clash yesterday seems to point to a rise in violent conduct in Malaysian football of late, said former national elite referee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh.

The former Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Referees Committee chairman also felt that the incident involving JDT defender Shane Lowry and Terengganu striker Jordan Mintah, which nearly sparked a free-for-all, should have led to Australian Lowry being booked immediately instead of being let off with just a verbal warning.

"Everyone knows what the decision should be with regard to his (Lowry's) action. This is the concept of violent conduct because it is an off-the-ball incident.

"The ball was not there, it was out of play and he (Lowry) acted in a violent manner," he said when contacted by Bernama, adding that referees should be brave enough to take immediate action against such behaviour.

Subkhiddin, who is a technical division instructor at the International Football Association (FIFA), said such violent incidents were becoming a regular occurrence in the Malaysia League (M-League), of late.

In yesterday's match at the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium in Kuala Terengganu, which ended 1-1, Lowry had charged at Mintah before tugging at his jersey and shoving the Ghanaian to the ground in the 71st minute. However, referee Tuan Mohd Yaasin Tuan Mohd Hanafiah let the Australian off with just a verbal warning.

Subkhiddin, who is a former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) elite referee, said it was one of at least three violent incidents during the match that were not dealt with properly.

"Referees must not be afraid (to dish out the cards) because everyone will accept it if it is the right decision. But if they don't make the right call, they will just be inviting criticism, more so since there were at least three incidents during yesterday's JDT-Terengganu game," he said.

The violent incidents also attracted the attention of JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who called into question the refereeing standard and urged FAM to take immediate action, including introducing the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

Meanwhile, FAM deputy president-cum-Referees Committee chairman Datuk S. Sivasundaram said they would only take action based on the assessment of the referee assessor on duty at the match.

He said they would take note of all criticisms and suggestions in order to improve the standard of refereeing, adding that the committee had not received any complaints during the Malaysia Cup campaign.

"We have the Referees Development division and any referee found not performing up to expectations will be referred to to it," he said, adding that FAM was still studying the use of VAR for domestic competitions as it would cost about RM20 million.