GAA Football

Fermanagh referees abused and spat at, reveals official

Fermanagh referees' chief Martin Higgins has revealed alarming levels of abuse directed at match officials in the Erne County. Pic Seamus Loughran
Gerry McLaughlin

A "NEW recruit" to refereeing was "spat at" in the aftermath of a game in county Fermanagh this year.

And an "experienced referee" had to leave a match following "sustained abuse" from club officials in the Erne County - that official has since quit refereeing.

"I witnessed some unbelievable abuse", said Referee's Secretary Martin Higgins - including from referees to other referees. These are some of of the startling revelations in Higgins' report to last night's county convention in Garrison.

In his final report, Higgins complained strongly about the abuse of referees in the Erne County in the year gone by.

However, Higgins also criticised some of his fellow referees in a hard-hitting report, where qualified referees, while acting in some capacity for their clubs, have "abused other referees".

Higgins listed a number of worrying incidents that are of particular concern. One of those concerned a "new recruit to refereeing subjected to sustained verbal abuse and spat at in the aftermath of a particularly challenging game".

Another incident concerned an experienced referee "who left the field in a senior league game following sustained abuse from certain club officials.

"And although he returned to finish the game he has now quit refereeing as a result", blasted Higgins.

He added that some club managers and officials needs to improve their conduct on the sideline.

" Some club officials and managers need to take a hard look at how they conduct themselves on the sideline.

"I witnessed some unbelievable abuse directed at some of our less experienced referees in some underage games this year".

He added: "There have also been at least two cases that I have been made aware of where qualified referees (when acting in a particular role for their clubs) think that it is acceptable to verbally abuse another referee".

And he added that cases like this deserves strong punishment from the CCC.

"I would propose that our CCC treat referees (who are acting as club managers/officials) who abuse other referees to double the minimum suspension set down in the Official Guide for such offences".

"Despite a high-profile campaign to recruit new referees in the early part of the year, we only managed to secure four new referee recruits to our Foundation Course.

"Some clubs would need to take a long hard look at who and what they contribute to our pool of referees.

"In all honesty we need another 10-12 new referees for our 2018 Foundation Course as a significant portion of our Grade 1 referees are over 45 years of age and cannot be expected to carry on refereeing indefinitely".

But Higgins blames the continued verbal abuse of referees as the biggest bar to getting new ones.

"Most current players who are approaching the end of their careers will not consider taking up the whistle due to the current level of abuse.

"The situation is only going to change when those reported are dealt with according to the Official Guide and the suspensions set down are actually served".

Nevertheless Higgins felt that the officials within the county generally refereed well.

"As a committee we are pleased with the standard of officiating during 2017 with our major finals particularly well refereed", he said.

* Derry secretary Danny Scullion has appealed for "restraint" in relation to referees, commenting: "Unfortunately during 2017 the Competitions Control Committee has had to deal with an increasing number of incidents of abuse of referees, particularly at under-age level.

"There is absolutely no need for any of these incidents and I would appeal for parents, supporters and mentors alike to show restraint at all times.

"I express my support for our zero tolerance policy on abuse of referees and commend the hard work that I know many clubs are doing in raising awareness of this vital issue".

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