Anyone who assaults referee should be banned from GAA for life, says Davy Fitzgerald

Waterford manager says it is important that referees see that they’re being backed

Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

Davy Fitzgerald believes anybody who physically assaults a referee or match official should be banned from the GAA for life.

And the Waterford manager hopes the recent upsurge of troublesome incidents involving match officials at club games does not lead to a nationwide strike by GAA referees.

“I think anyone that goes near a referee or hits a referee should be probably banned for life, gone. I think that’s it, over — end of story,” said Fitzgerald.

“I hope they don’t go on strike, I think what needs to be done is anyone that assaults a referee just needs to be dealt with severely, I think that’s important that they [referees] see they are being backed.”


Wexford gardaí investigating alleged assault of referee at junior football matchOpens in new window ]

In recent weeks there have been unsavoury incidents involving match officials in Roscommon, Wexford and Kerry.

County board investigations have been under way in all counties and the Wexford County Board has called a meeting of their referees for tonight. The club at the centre of the controversy in Wexford, St Joseph’s, has also moved to ban a team mentor.

“Following a meeting of the executive committee of St Joseph’s GAA club, a decision has been taken to suspend, indefinitely, the club member at the centre of the alleged incident at our junior football game on Sunday morning. This suspension is with immediate effect,” read a club statement.

Fitzgerald accepts he has often been one of the more visible intercounty managers disputing decisions with referees. However, he feels there is a line between verbally arguing the toss and a physical confrontation.

“I do not think it is right that any referee should be treated like that or assaulted. I am one of the ones that will fight with the referees and have arguments here and there but under no circumstances should there be any referee or any person assaulted like that. That’s for definite.”

Fitzgerald believes if there was an opportunity for managers at intercounty level to communicate with referees in the days leading up to matches, it would provide a more frictionless arena for discourse and help create a better understanding between all parties.

“I would love the GAA to maybe consider communication with the referees. Definitely from an intercounty point of view if you could have a few minutes with them the day or two before the game to see what way they are thinking of reffing the game.

“I think we might get it five minutes before the match, but the ref is actually tense enough and he has enough on his plate. I actually think like we could learn a lot from the rugby and how they handle themselves and how to deal with things.

“I think sometimes managers get very frustrated because they see decisions they know are wrong and the referee mightn’t accept that they are wrong at the time.

“The one thing I don’t like is sometimes a referee who you actually can’t say boo to.

“And I was one of the biggest culprits, I would give out left, right and centre and I’d give it to them. Yeah, maybe I need to have a look at myself and try not to be that bad. It’s hard if you see a very bad decision and you can’t help yourself, but maybe I shouldn’t. But maybe if I got an opportunity to talk to the referee afterwards in a good environment, 24 hours afterwards, or something. I think the communication lines is something that we actually probably should explore.”

Davy Fitzgerald was speaking at the announcement Londis will sponsor Ireland’s Fittest Family for the fourth year in a row, with the show returning to RTÉ on Sunday October 2nd for a 10th season

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times