Government moves to tackle abuse of referees following number of alleged attacks

Talks with Sport Ireland aim to determine actions to be taken to ensure integrity is a value across sport, says Minister

Government officials have begun discussions with Sport Ireland to examine what actions can be taken to tackle abuse aimed at referees, Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne has said.

Mr Byrne said it is “incumbent” on sporting organisations to ensure incidents are dealt with “strongly and appropriately” and that a safe environment is provided for “referees, officials and players”.

There were a number of alleged attacks on referees at GAA matches in particular last year. A referee officiating at a minor championship game in Ballyforan, Co Roscommon, required medical attention after he was allegedly assaulted during the second half of the game last August.

Gardaí also investigated an alleged attack on a referee following a Wexford GAA Junior A football championship game in Whiterock Hill in September.


Mr Byrne said it is not acceptable for anyone involved in sport to be subjected to any form of abuse, violence or discrimination “in any shape or form and I condemn any such behaviour”.

“My officials have commenced discussions with Sport Ireland on this serious matter with a view to seeing what actions can be implemented to ensure that integrity is a value and behaviour evident across all levels of sport,” he said. “However, the primary responsibility for ensuring a respectful and disciplined environment rests with individual participants and their national governing bodies.”

The Meath East TD said he was aware of a number of “unsavoury incidents” last year which led to “strong sanctions against those involved”.

“It is incumbent on sporting organisations to ensure that these type of incidents are dealt with strongly and appropriately, and that a safe environment is provided for referees, officials and players,” he added.

“I would urge all sporting organisations to ensure that this is the case in their respective sports. At the end of the day, the decision of the referee is final and must be respected by both participants and spectators.”

Sport Ireland said it is “unequivocal” in its stance against abuse, discrimination and inappropriate behaviour at all levels of sport.

It said the GAA, FAI and IRFU all plan to deliver specific initiatives to address the abuse of referees and ensure their return and retention. “This is in addition to some of the ongoing work that is already in place,” it said.

Sport Ireland added it would continue to work with its partners to address “any and all abuse” directed at coaches, game officials and players.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times