Majority of new referees quit within two years due to abuse 

Majority of new referees quit within two years due to abuse 

The Irish Soccer Referees Society has had three members assaulted in different games, an Oireachtas committee will hear. File Image.

Two-thirds of football referees quit within two years due to the abuse they receive, an Oireachtas committee will hear on Wednesday.

The committee on tourism, culture, arts, sport and media will meet representatives of the GAA, IRFU, FAI, and the Irish Soccer Referees Society to discuss abuse of officials.

Earlier this month, referees in the North Dublin Schoolboys/girls Leagues withdrew their services due to abuse from the sidelines.

Arising from the action, 870 teams, encompassing 13,000 players, went without football.

Vice-president of Irish Soccer Referees Society, Sean Slattery, will tell the committee that members have been assaulted recently.

"We had three members assaulted in different games," he will say.

"All three players received 12-month bans from playing [the minimum sanction allowed for under FAI rules].

We also had two members threatened verbally, one by phone and one to his face after a match; and both instances were, as advised by us, reported to gardaí. 

"We also have had games abandoned at all ages and levels in all parts of the country, thankfully in a very small minority of instances. 

"Most of the time assaults are not reported to gardaí, with members hesitant to do so, sometimes possibly for fear of retribution."

Gerard Perry, the chair of the FAI's referees' committee, will tell the committee that the "issue is coming to a head".

"Anecdotally, we lose 66% of new referees within the first two years of them completing the referee beginner’s course," he is due to report.

"Exit interviews inform us that ‘referee abuse’ is the main reason for them stopping.

Since 2019, there have 34 cases of abuse of match officials brought before the Disciplinary Control Unit of the Football Association of Ireland."

He will say that 22 of those resulted in long-term bans.

The GAA's representatives will tell the committee that the message that referees are essential has not resonated with a "majority of sports followers, and at times players".

Damien Varley, Munster, is shown a red card by referee Dudley Phillips in 2013. Picture credit: Steve Pope/Sportsfile.
Damien Varley, Munster, is shown a red card by referee Dudley Phillips in 2013. Picture credit: Steve Pope/Sportsfile.

Dudley Phillips, the head of referees with the IRFU, will tell the committee that abuse of officials "is on the rise".

"Sport is one area impacted by what seems to be an increase in abuse in society in general," he will tell the committee.

"One only has to look at any of the many social media posts that arise from sport — week in, week out — to see evidence of this.

Social media and sports pundits also have a significant part to play — in a recent example, pundits correctly applauded a person for speaking out about a mental health issue, but in the very next segment slated a group of match officials. 

"In my opinion, these 'experts' should be conscious about how the individual is impacted when criticised so heavily. 

"Errors happen, and it is OK to highlight them — indeed, I am not saying that anyone should ignore them — but there is a line that should not be crossed."

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