Two weeks ago, 20-year-old Harry McCann, an underage soccer referee, made national headlines after he quit following a number of incidents of alleged abuse.
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Mr McCann, from Clane, received a huge reaction online after he tweeted about a particular incident which led him to hang up his whistle. The UCC student also appeared on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live a few weeks previous highlighting the issue.
“The worrying part about it is that the younger the kids are, the worse the abuse seems to be from spectators, and parents and management.
“It’s not necessarily older kids or adults, it’s children’s games where it’s happening more and more regularly,” Mr McCann told the Leader in April after a previous incident.
Another high-profile case was that of a match in Westmeath, where a referee was hospitalised after being allegedly assaulted, leaving him with a bloodied, swollen face.
Incidents like this are absolutely unacceptable in general, never mind in sport. It’s no wonder there is a shortage of referees when you hear of what they’re subject to while just doing their job. At the end of the day, if there’s no referee there’s no game. A mere 30 quid is not worth the hassle of being called every name under the sun of a Saturday morning.
Mr McCann says while there are fines and bans in place, he doesn’t think they’re strong enough to deter people. He is calling for a zero tolerance policy, like that of the IRFU. A life-long ban would certainly make people think twice about opening their mouths or raising their fists.
Abuse towards officials, in a number of sports, has been a topic of conversation for many years.
A number of GAA referees have been abused and assaulted across the country.
The Give Respect Get Respect campaign was launched a few years ago. and while it made people more aware of the issue, I don’t think there’s been much of a change in attitude. The discipline is just not there.
One GAA referee I spoke to in the past said the only way assaults can be dealt with is through the District Court.
It makes sense, if bans and fines aren’t detering people, then maybe a criminal conviction will.
While there have been a few cases brought before the court, I think more should be reported.
The situation would surely change then.