A Gaelic games referee received an anonymous letter suggesting threats to them and their family after they refereed an underage fixture locally, Scoreline understands.
Abuse towards match officials is a topic we’ve been keeping an eye on in recent times on air and online with the issue suggested to be at a “crisis point” according to one official.
GAA Director General Tom Ryan, writing earlier this year in his 2023 Annual Report said “any player, supporter, official or member who still believes that the interest of their team is best served by abusive behaviour towards a referee, or indeed anybody, is sadly mistaken” and encouraged those who maintain that way of thinking to “just stay away” from games.
Apparently, the message isn’t being heard by some individuals with the latest case reported to Scoreline suggesting the abusive behaviour is transitioning beyond the sidelines.
Not just a GAA issue
The issue of abusive behaviour towards officials isn’t solely within the world of the GAA, however, with abusive behaviour leading to the Dublin branch of the Irish Soccer Referees’ Society electing to strike last November, a move that would have cancelled hundreds of games in the capital. The strike was subsequently cancelled following positive discussions with the FAI but issues were deemed serious enough for referees to withdraw the services and down whistles.
Abusive behaviour too does not solely exist in Dublin. A game in Wexford last year saw one match referee punched in the back of the head while there have been countless reports around the country in a variety of sports of referees calling a halt to game over sideline abuse – Wexford’s Lee Chin another recent victim during a challenge match with Tipperary.
The latest development locally has seen one referee “subjected to verbal abuse from players, mentors and spectators” following a recent local underage fixture, an individual familiar with the situation told Scoreline. “No referee goes out to any game with a biased attitude no matter how much a club or supporters think. The so-called excuse that ‘oh you get paid for it’ is a load of crap, these people go out often seven nights a week so that people can enjoy the sport of hurling or football or camogie.”
In the days following the fixture, an anonymous hand-written letter, a copy of which has been seen by Scoreline, was delivered to the referee in question, describing them as “a solid disgrace”, outlining grievances with decisions during the game before concluding with “you won’t get away with this… we know where you live (and) all about your family… may you die roaring with cancer.”
It is understood the matter has been referred to Gardaí for investigation.
At a time when players, officials and supporters are being encouraged to “give respect, get respect” and some counties are already struggling to keep up referee numbers be it for Gaelic games, rugby, soccer or otherwise, have things gone too far?