The GAA’s national match officials manager Pat Doherty says he has been given no reason to believe the organisation is facing a refereeing shortage.
Reports from Limerick, Tipperary and Leinster secretary Michael Delaney over the last week have highlighted difficulties in recruiting match officials for the association. But Doherty points out the GAA are continually exercised by the need to get more people to become referees.
“It’s always something both counties and Croke Park are keeping an eye on and making sure that they have new referees coming into the system.
“I haven’t heard anything from either county [Limerick or Tipperary] but I wouldn’t have thought it was anything exceptional. We’re always saying we don’t have enough referees at club level in the counties.”
Doherty said there are no plans to begin a specific recruitment drive to increase the number of referees. He also played down the significance of GAA referees being enticed to switch to rugby and soccer because of better conditions, such as expenses.
“It’s not as if somebody says ‘I’m going to be a referee’ and says ‘maybe I’ll be a referee in biathlon’. I don’t think that happens,” said Doherty.
“Anybody who decides to become a football or a hurling referee has an experience of the GAA and 99.999% of them, despite what the media might write or say, have played GAA.
“I don’t think somebody who has played GAA all his life is then going to decide ‘right, I’m going to become a rugby referee’. Equally, I don’t think somebody who has played rugby is going to decide to become a GAA referee. I don’t see GAA referees going to go to another code for any reason.”
Over the weekend, Alan Nash, secretary of the unofficial Gaelic Match Officials Association, said the GAA have to face up to the refereeing problems.
He tweeted: “The cancellation of a new ref’s course in Tipp and Limerick’s public plea for people to take up the whistle show we face a shortage of refs.
“Every county in the country is facing a shortage of refs in the coming years as young people turn away from refereeing in the GAA.
“There are a number of reasons why county boards are failing to attract young people to take up the whistle and something needs to be done.
“When you ask people to consider becoming a ref you hear the same replies like why would I put up myself and my family through regular abuse? A big issue is we have refs who are refereeing more than one code and they are starting to drift towards soccer and rugby and away from GAA.
“When you ask why refs are going to soccer and rugby they tell you they are treated better and receive less abuse. Unless attitudes change towards GAA refs we are going face an increasing shortage year on year.”
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