NEFL secretary Gerry Gorman has backed the initiative taken by the Louth Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society, who supply a large number of match officials to the local football leagues,  after they announced they are to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to verbal and other abuse at matches, following a decision taken at their latest meeting on Monday night.

In a statement circulated today by branch secretary Brian Murphy, they say that in effect, what it means is that a referee will have the right to pick up the ball, walk off the pitch and abandon the game, at the first sign of verbal or other abuse in a match,

They say the stance has been taken in response to the significant increase in verbal abuse and antagonizing behaviour since the resumption of playing back in June.

Gorman told Meath Live, ‘Any abuse of match officials is unacceptable, but there does need to be a consistency in tolerance levels shown by referees, what one ref will accept as fair comment others might classify as abuse and that needs to be addressed, it’s nobody’s fault it is just human nature, a remark that might upset you might not upset me.

 

‘I would also suggest that there is a hug inconsistency on the application of the laws of the game from one ref to the next, and that also needs to be worked on.

‘In fairness, I would say there is evidence to support their claim of an upsurge in abuse, certainly, we would be coming across more than usual levels of it in incidents that refs report to us.

‘In relation to the comment about serial offenders bear in mind the Louth branch covers a number of different leagues but if it involves anyone operating in the NEFL I would ask the branch to supply us with the names of those people so we can look into the issue and if appropriate take action, we will not be found wanting in that regard.’

The Louth Branch go-on to say they lost nine referees post COVID, while many more are citing the lack of willingness to officiate on certain days as they know serial offenders play on those dates, and the lack of appropriate sanctions is allowing such serial offenders to continue to attend and operate in an official capacity.

 

The branch also states that while it’s not within their remit to instruct leagues and clubs how to operate, a number of suggestions were put forward that could alleviate such problems such as clearly defined areas for coaches and officials with a separate setback area for supporters.

They also suggest Club Liaison officers be appointed, who would go along on the day to ensure proper conduct

While there’s also the suggestion that clubs and Leagues should adopt a better understanding of the rules of the game and their interpretation, and that Leagues should look at points deductions and other serious sanctions for serial offenders.

The statement in full reads; ‘ The Louth Branch adopted a ZERO TOLERANCE stance to abuse at its meeting last night. In effect what this means is a REFEREE will pick up the ball and walk ( abandon game) at the first sign of verbal or other abuse in a game. This stance has been taken in response to the significant increase in verbal abuse and antagonizing behaviour since the resumption of playing in June. The Louth Branch lost 9 referees post COVID and many more are citing the lack of willingness to officiate on certain Days as they know serial offenders play on those dates and the lack of appropriate sanctions is allowing such serial offenders to continue to attend and operate in an official capacity.

While it is not within LOUTH ISRS remit to instruct leagues and clubs how to operate a number of suggestions were put forward that could alleviate such problems;
• Clear delineated areas for coaches and officials with separate set back areas for supporters (minimum 2 metre’s) to be roped or clearly segregated by a lined mark of a different colour
• Club Liaison officers to be appointed that would be a go-to on the day and would ensure proper conduct
• Clubs/Leagues look to adopt an awareness and understanding of the LAWS OF THE GAME and interpretation of the same
• Leagues look at points deductions and other serious sanctions for serial offenders’.