Nash: Refs at risk if screening isn’t done

The Gaelic Match Officials Association (GMOA) fear their members are being put at risk by the lack of a cardiac screening programme.

All inter-county players are provided with the free service via the Gaelic Players Association and mobile cardiac screening company Heartaid.

However, GMOA secretary Alan Nash believes the GAA must introduce a similar initiative for all referees.

He claims they are more at risk than players of heart problems because of their older age profile and extra volume of games.

“The glaringly obvious welfare issue is that the GAA haven’t rolled out a screening programme for referees,” he said.

“The big thing at the moment is Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) and defibrillators.

“All inter-county players are screened but referees aren’t screened yet they’re expected to be as fit as players.

“A lot of them are giving 10 or 15 years to players and they’re not getting a general medical at the start of the season. The demographic would show that it’s an aging group of referees and the GAA are continuing to fail to attract young referees.

“In Tipperary, there’s a fella still refereeing and he’s over 70 years of age. What’s being done for him?”

Nash says the public have little sympathy for referees despite the fact they could be officiating up to five or six games over a weekend and have to foot their own medical expenses.

“The GAA has a train wreck waiting to happen. Referees simply have to be screened at the start of every season. There are so many juvenile championships going on at the moment and referee coordinators are stretched and find themselves asking players to double and triple up.

“A referee could do as many as three matches on a Saturday and another two on the Sunday. Players only play one game a day.

“They may only be half-fit and carrying an injury after doing a game a night before and they run the risk of aggravating that injury. They’ll also get dog’s abuse if they don’t keep up with the game.”

According to Nash, the number of men talking up the whistle are dropping and he likens it to the priesthood.

“The only difference is the clergy look after their own. But you can compare it to the priesthood because not enough young people are joining.

“The average age of the referee is rising all the time. The young whistlers programme isn’t working because kids aren’t staying at it and that’s down to verbal abuse. In the future, if they hurt their groin or hamstring they’ll be expected to pay for it.”

Nash also insists it wouldn’t be any great expense to county boards to pay for referees to be cardiac screened.

“The county boards will plead poverty if they were asked to pay for them but they’re losing referees left, right and centre.

“It wouldn’t cost county board large amounts of money. Pick a GP and tell the referees to go to him or her. It’s cost effective when you think about it because it’s an ongoing thing.”

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