Sport Ireland asked to intervene in ongoing abuse of referees

Sport Ireland asked to intervene in ongoing abuse of referees

A number of high-profile incidents in recent months has seen the issue of safety for referees come into focus. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sports governing bodies have been asked to engage with Sport Ireland in a bid to clamp down on attacks on referees.

A number of high-profile incidents in recent months has seen the issue of safety for referees come into focus.

Asked at a post-Budget briefing if he was concerned about the attacks,  Sports Minister Jack Chambers said he was "shocked" at the level of violence on display. Mr Chambers' comments come after a weekend of attacks at GAA games.

“We’re shocked by the number of instances in the last couple of weeks and there should be no threatening or abusive behaviour against any match official, in any code,” he said.

“They are essential to the function of our game [GAA] and indeed in all sports, and they need to be protected and respected.

“We have asked Sport Ireland to engage with all of the governing bodies in sport."

Mr Chambers said the recent decision in Roscommon to hand out a 96-week ban for a St Aidan’s mentor involved in an incident that left referee Kevin Naughton requiring medical attention at an underage game was welcome, but severe penalties were needed as a deterrent across the board.

“This is something that we have heard from Micheál Martin, chair of the Wexford County Board that there is an issue around retention and recruitment of referees. It’s something that we have to have a national conversation on [around] education and deterrents.

“In fairness, we had a 96-week ban in a recent high-profile case [in Roscommon] and we need to see similar sanctions taken against anyone who abuses a referee in any way, and Sport Ireland are leading on this piece of work.”

A referee and an umpire are understood to have been subjected to violent behaviour following a junior A group game between St Joseph’s and Our Lady’s Island in Wexford town on Sunday, while another incident in a Mayo U17 game between Castlebar Mitchels and Westport is being investigated.

Budget sports funding

Mr Chambers said his allocation in this year's budget will see Ireland pursue plans to host Euro 2028, the 2027 Ryder Cup, and the 2030 Cricket World Cup. 

The budget also makes additional funding available to Sport Ireland of €8m, which will support increased funding to high performance sport in the lead-in to the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games and the ongoing implementation of key actions in the Action Plan for Sport 2021-2023 to drive increased participation, including completion of a national swimming Strategy and the establishment of a dedicated coaching fund for national governing bodies.

A Government statement said the sports section of the budget would also allow for the continued development of the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown to deliver "world-class, state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure and facilities for high-performance athletes and the general public".

In addition, €35m is being allocated to sports clubs and organisations to help them meet energy costs this winter. This special fund will help clubs with the cost of floodlights, heating gyms and sports halls, as well as other energy costs.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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