New Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald says any individual who physically abuses a referee should be banned for life.
Fitzgerald believes a zero-tolerance approach should be taken in the wake of a series of alleged assaults on referees in the last six weeks, two in Wexford and one in Roscommon.
The 2013 All-Ireland SHC winning manager would also like to see referees given the chance to speak to managers more at inter-county level and feels it would lend itself to more understanding and respect.
“I think that anyone who goes near or hits a referee should probably be banned for life, gone,” insists Fitzgerald. “I think that’s a no-go area, end of story. But I think the communications lines is something we should explore.”
Fitzgerald acknowledged his own verbal run-ins with match officials.
“I was one of the biggest culprits. I would give out to them left, right and centre and I’d give it to them. Maybe I need to look at myself to try and not be that bad. It’s hard when you see a very bad decision and you can’t help yourself but maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe if I got an opportunity to get to talk to a referee in a good environment, maybe 24 hours afterwards...”
Given the recent flashpoints, Fitzgerald readily accepts a withdrawal of services by referees at club level is a possibility.
“I hope they don’t go on strike, I think what needs to be done is anyone that assaults a referee just needs to be dealt with severely, I think that’s important that they see they are being backed. But I do believe that the whole thing needs to be looked at, I really do.”
Punishing the clubs of the individuals who behave in such way to referees could also be an option, he believes.
“I think that’s a thing we should definitely look at – that the club or the county definitely need to have a code of conduct themselves that they abide by and when it comes to taking action, that they will also take action against that person.”
*Davy Fitzgerald was launching Londis’ sponsorship of Ireland’s Fittest Family. Londis will sponsor RTÉ's hit TV show for a fourth year in a row, which returns to our screens this Sunday for a 10th season.