A leading refereeing official has raised concerns about the volume of assaults on referees in Donegal and said referees in the county have become targets ‘for n unhealthy and dangerous trend’.
In March, Letterkenny Rovers striker Pajo Rafferty was handed a 12-month suspension by the Football Association of Ireland following an incident in an FAI Intermediate Cup semi-final against Firhouse Clover. Rafferty became involved in an incident with referee Marty McGarrigle after being sent off.
At Tuesday night’s Annual General Meeting of the Ulster Football Association, Aidan Redican, the Chairman of the Connacht-Ulster Regional Referees Committee, said the incident was ‘extremely embarrassing for Donegal soccer and totally degrading for the referee, who was the victim of the assault.’
“This behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and has no place in sport,” Redican said.
“This was the sixth assault in six years in this county, which is well above the national average. It’s always a wake-up call to all participants of association football when a referee is assaulted. All six assaults have received the same sanction – a one-year ban, which is the minimum according to FAI rules.
“I have since called for a scale of sanctions to differentiate between the seriousness of assaults to be introduced as soon as possible.”
Redican has also called on referees to be able to attend hearing to have their say and ensure they can ‘listen to and refute any inaccuracies suggested by the offending player and/or their representatives.
Redican, a former Ulster Senior League referee himself, has queried the comments and even threats that have been levelled at his officials.
He said: “I was appalled ay the threats I heard being directed at officials by a small number of supporters at a very recent high-profile game.
“I was confronted by an irate spectator who then made threats in relation to the officials. We would expect that irate spectators who cannot control themselves and who have been identified should be removed from the ground.
“What you see are these same irate spectators at the final whistle making their way onto the pitch to berate the officials with no protection for the officials. This is a recipe for disaster…
“Referees have become very easy targets for an unhealthy and dangerous trend in a minority of games across some Leagues.
“On a small umber of occasions, referees and their assistants have highlighted to me that they have felt endangered whilst officiating by a small number of angry spectators.”
Redican said referieeng in Donegal was ‘crisis-bound’ unless numbers are increased.
He added: “Referees in Donegal are an ageing group and most certainly there will be a major transition over the next five-ten years if we are going to be able to continue to officiate at the ever-increasing volume of fixtures.
“We need the support of the entire football community to assist us in attracting new referees.”