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attacks Soccer referees threaten mass walk-out over abuse and violence at football matches


The FAI's headquarters in Abbottstown, Dublin

The FAI's headquarters in Abbottstown, Dublin

Promise: Junior Minister for Sport Jack Chambers

Promise: Junior Minister for Sport Jack Chambers


The FAI's headquarters in Abbottstown, Dublin

Referees will withdraw from all soccer nationwide unless appropriate measures are enforced to end abuse and violence towards match officials.

Following an escalation in attacks, the Irish Soccer Referees’ Society (ISRS) today warns that unless full disciplinary measures are imposed on perpetrators, it will bring all games to a halt.

The ISRS said the laws needed to enforce discipline are already in place under Football Association of Ireland (FAI) rules, but for some leagues ‘soft discipline’ is imposed.

“We are not looking for new rules or disciplinary penalties, they already exist within the FAI rulebook,” Sean Slattery, national vice-president of the ISRS, said.

“But we do want the correct procedures to be issued nationwide, across all leagues and not just by some.

“The rules are there, they are just not being enforced and you can see that with the abuse and terror being inflicted upon our members.

“If this doesn’t happen, we will very definitely enforce a withdrawal of all services nationwide.”

The Department of Sport has also come out strongly against abuse of officials and urged the FAI to take “appropriate action” against perpetrators of violence and abuse.

It has emerged two referees were recently attacked and punched in separate games, including at a Dublin schoolboy match, while another referee feared for his life after he was surrounded and verbally abused “in a public park” by players and

Another referee was contacted at his home after a game and told he would “be got”, while in another incident – not involving a referee an adult spectator at an U15 match assaulted a child who was playing in the game.

The litany of abuse has provoked the ISRS to warn that maximum bans and penalties must be imposed from now on.

“We want to see all leagues working consistently to implement the penalties that are already there, and if that means longer bans for perpetrators and fines for clubs, then that’s what must happen,” Mr Slattery said.

“It’s very hard to comprehend that some leagues choose the softer option, even in the cases of extreme abuse.

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“There are some leagues which impose zero tolerance when it comes to dealing with culprits, and this needs to be the norm.”

The Department of Sport urged the FAI and all sporting organisations to provide more protection and support for referees.

“Abuse of officials at any level is wrong and should not be tolerated,” a statement said.

“It is important that sporting organisations across all sports provide a safe environment for referees.

"Where abuse and threatening behaviour is aimed at referees and officials, appropriate action must be taken by the sporting organisations.”

Junior Minister of Sport Jack Chambers said he noted that FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill has promised to do whatever is needed to ensure more protection to match officials.

Mr Hill said following the cancellation of matches by a number of Dublin leagues earlier this week, including the North Dublin Soccer League, that attacks on referees “will not be tolerated, in the light of escalating abuse against match officials”.

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