Former umpire to set up unofficial GAA refereees body

An unofficial association for GAA referees is on the way, with the formation of the Gaelic Match Officials Association.

An unofficial association for GAA referees is on the way, with the formation of the Gaelic Match Officials Association.

Former umpire Alan Nash from Clonmel has decided to set up the body after an strong response to a questionnaire issued to referees across the country.

Nash, who owns the gaelicrulesadvice.ie website, was contacted by a number of referees who claimed that they had been assaulted in GAA games last year and thus compiled the questionaire which contains a variety of welfare-related questions.

Membership will be open to referees at club and county level in football, hurling and camogie and - after a number of high-profile incidents recently - one of the main aims of the association will be to provide legal counsel to members who want to take a civil action arising from an assault in a GAA match.

"They reported these incidents to the GAA but any punishments that were handed down were then overturned or reduced on appeal," Nash told the Irish Examiner.

"Referees have been upset and angry when they tried to see if anything could be done to revisit the appeals but under the rules of the GAA that is not possible. Unless they take civil action and are prepared to go on the record, they can’t do anything about it.

"But they are afraid about the repercussions of doing that as they might be overlooked for games in the future.

"There are also representations being made to them to not report incidents. But now if that happens all the referee needs to do is refer them to the association."

Nash believes the new association is a must to stem the tide of violence against referees and is prepared to work alongside the official National Referees' Association.

"I’ve received a couple of phone calls to let sleeping dogs lie and been told that there is no need for any organisation.

"Basically, (I've been) told to go away and not rock the boat. We won't be recognised straight away but if our membership continues to grow things will change in time."

Those who responded to the questionnaire will now be sent an email with a draft blueprint for the association and asked for their feedback on it.

"We want everyone to know we're not about criticising Croke Park. This is just about getting respect for referees," he added.

"(Referees) have lost faith in the system. They don't believe that if they get assaulted the punishment will be sufficient to match the crime. The case of Ray Matthews perfectly illustrates that."

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