Irish Examiner view: Time to better protect referees

The Oireachtas sports committee has heard that some referees have been attacked on the field and threatened with stabbing
Irish Examiner view: Time to better protect referees

The FAI has dealt with 34 cases of referees being physically assaulted in the last two years; the IRFU has had 27 reports of officials being abused this year alone.

We usually associate whistleblowers with employees who expose information or activity within a private, public, or government organisation that is deemed to be illegal, illicit, unsafe, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer money.

But, of course, it also applies to sports referees, those professional whistleblowers who often get a hard time from fans. 

Some of it is good-natured banter from the terraces but what may not be so widely known is the extent to which they are also abused. 

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport, and Media has heard that some referees have been attacked on the field and threatened with stabbing.

Representatives from the FAI, GAA, IRFU, and the Irish Soccer Referees’ Society were all before the committee to discuss the level of abuse.

'Stark' evidence of abuse

The committee heard “stark” evidence from representatives from Ireland’s largest sporting organisations about the level of abuse that referees often face.

Two-thirds of referees leave within two years due to the scale of abuse, the Football Association of Ireland told the committee. 

The FAI has dealt with 34 cases of referees being physically assaulted in the last two years; the IRFU has had 27 reports of officials being abused this year alone.

This should serve as a wake-up call to all sporting organisations that they must put enhanced mechanisms in place to protect referees. 

If not, there may be few whistleblowers left.

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