Renewed calls for greater sanctions as fall out from referee attack intensifies

Match official Daniel Sweeney, who is aged in his 50s, sustained a broken jaw and an eye socket injury.

Renewed calls for greater sanctions as fall out from referee attack intensifies

There are renewed calls this evening for greater sanctions for people who abuse or assault referees.

The call comes after referee Daniel Sweeney suffered a suspected broken jaw and other facial injuries when he was beaten up following an adult soccer match in Co Offaly yesterday.

Gardai say no arrests have been made.

President of the Irish Soccer Referees Society Paul O’Brien says Daniel was very badly injured in the assault.

"The abuse levels have gone up. We are trying to combat it but we have to do our best within the perimiters of the FAI."

Mr O'Brien said the FAI needed to review its sanction guidelines, however.

Noting that at present any player who assaulted a referee was automatically suspended for one year he suggested this was not strong enough.

"That’s not sending a message.”

Speaking to the Irish Times he also urged to sport’s governing body to set up a respect and education campaign for the proper behaviour at games.

Daniel Sweeney, who is aged in his 50s, sustained a broken jaw and an eye socket injury when a disturbance broke out in the car park of a football ground in Horseleap.

Mr Sweeney was taken to Tullamore hospital by ambulance for treatment after a match between Horseleap and Mullingar Town.

Gardai have confirmed they are investigating the incident, which happened at around 1pm on Sunday afternoon.

Officers from Tullamore were called to the scene at a football club in Horseleap after a game in the Combined Counties Football League near the Westmeath-Offaly county boundary.

Chris Hand, secretary of the Combined Counties Football League, told RTE Soccer that the level of violence perpetrated on Mr Sweeney has shocked the community.

“Daniel has been a referee for a number of years and he’s a good man,” he said.

No arrests have been made over the incident (Julien Behal/PA)
No arrests have been made over the incident (Julien Behal/PA)

“We will follow FAI procedure in relation to how we handle incidents like this.

“We will follow up with the strongest action we can. I think what has surprised everybody about yesterday was the level of violence.

“There is no place for this in sport, in any sport.”

News of the assault first broke on social media, when one football fan tweeted: “One of our Referees in Midland Branch today after a game was viciously attacked by players this should not be tollarted (sic) at all we as Referees doing a job no REF no game” with pictures of Mr Sweeney’s injuries.

The tweet quickly went viral with football fans expressing outrage and disgust at those involved.

A Gardai spokesman said: “No arrests have been made to date and inquiries are ongoing.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact Tullamore Garda Station 057-9327600.”

A spokesman for the Irish Soccer Referees Society (ISRS) said the lack of volunteer referees available for matches is no surprise considering Sunday’s assault.

“We in the ISRS are shocked and appalled in equal measure with the vicious assault on one of our members after his game on Sunday,” he said. “We are calling on the FAI to work with us to launch a respect and educational campaign.

“Without referees there is no game, we as referees should be viewed as a resource and in turn we should be given the protection and respect we deserve.”

- Digital Desk & Press Association

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