GAA president Larry McCarthy. Tom Maher/INPHO

GAA president says referee abuse at club games has 'cast a shadow over the entire Association'

The GAA have launched a campaign for members to give referees more respect.

GAA PRESIDENT LARRY McCarthy insists ’actions need to speak louder than words’ when it comes to respecting referees following recent incidents of abuse at officials in club games. 

A referee was assaulted by a mentor in a Roscommon minor football game, while there were two incidents of physical abuse of officials highlighted in Wexford in junior A football and junior B hurling.

In Waterford, an U12 hurling match was called off after a spectator became abusive towards a referee. In Kerry, an U13 football game was abandoned following an incident where a supporter threatened the referee.

McCarthy was speaking at the launch of GAA Referees Respect Day, which will take place across the weekend of 22 and 23 October to coincide with a number county finals. 

The campaign aims to raise the profile of referees and bring awareness among GAA members about the level of respect expected to give match officials. 

“As we head towards the end of our first designated club season, there’s no denying that the club championship has been a fantastic opportunity for clubs to take centre stage,” said McCarthy.

“And just as our club players have been put on centre stage, so have our referees and our match officials and it’s arguably never more important than at this time to single them out for appreciation.

“But actions need to speak louder than words when it comes to respect for our referees, because the actions of a small number of members of our association have undoubtedly cast a shadow over the entire association,” the Cork native added.

“There’s nothing complicated about any of the above, but we need to get out of our comfort zone and around our mantra of ‘Give Respect, Get Respect’.  

“Crucially, when we fall short of the standard we set for ourselves, we need to face up to it and accept the punishment.

“It can, I would argue, be quite disheartening to see people who have been disciplined have their punishments reduced or even dismissed on the most minute or infinitesimal technicality. 

“We need, in my view, to adopt the John Mullane mantra – ‘where you do the crime, you do the time,’” said McCarthy, referencing the Waterford star’s decision not to appeal his red card in the 2004 Munster final against Cork. 

The campaign promises to review the rules concerning infractions against match officials and look at how serious infractions against them are processed within the Association. 

A recent GAA survey found that of 438 referees surveyed in 2021, 94% had experienced verbal abuse during their careers and, more concerning, 23% suffered physical abuse. 

In addition, it found that the mental health of referees was negatively affected with 48% admitting the abuse made them consider quitting. 

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