Ulster CEO dismisses criticism of referees

Danny Murphy says ’no colour of card’ is needed for those playing by the rules

Ulster Council chief executive Danny Murphy has defended referees against what he terms "unacceptable" criticism. Writing in his annual report to next Saturday's provincial convention, Murphy says that fouling and not officiating is the real problem in the games.

“The role of referees is central to the playing of our games. They have a clearly defined function which is to ensure that the games are played in accordance with the rules. Too often we still debate the rules as if they are transient and that is damaging to the perception of our games by players, coaches, supporters and the general public.

"The decision of Congress in the past year was democratically approved and these rules are part of the rulebook. We should abide by them. There is, however, speculation that there will be problems but the application of rules by the referee is not the problem.

“Fouling is the real problem and no colour of card is required for those playing by the rules. In the broader context, there is too much negative comment on the quality of the games and related matters.


“Even the analysts have joined in and the correct application of rule still seems fair game for criticism of the referee, the mentors, players or the association. It is not acceptable that controversy is either the fault of the rules or the referee.

“We need to support the referees, our games and the association against such negative treatment.”

Elsewhere in the report, he joins his Leinster counterpart Michael Delaney in expressing misgivings about the proposals of the Football Review Committee to re-shape the All-Ireland football championship on the basis of four eight-county provincial competitions.

“From my understanding of its material I think that we are treating the symptoms and not addressing the overall issue. That is some of our counties are more competitive than others. There has been much said about the inequality of the current structure of our championships, but getting defeated teams involved in another province is not addressing the need to develop the status of the counties to where they can compete on an equal basis.

Media profile
"There are many other matters that need to be examined, and it needs to be stated that the status quo is the benchmark against which these proposals need to be addressed. There is also the need to ensure that our media profile and TV coverage are not further reduced or constrained."

He went on to describe the failure to fix a date for the 2013 Ulster hurling final between Antrim and Down as “the biggest disappointment of the past year”.

The report was written before yesterday’s announcement from the Ulster Council that the postponed final goes ahead on Sunday week, 2nd February at 2.30 in Celtic Park, Derry, as well as an undertaking that “measures are in place to ensure that the issues which arose in 2013 will not occur again.

“While it is regrettable that we were unable to proceed with the fixture in the calendar year of 2013, the CCC and both counties remained committed to playing the Ulster senior hurling championship final.”

Broadcast rights
Murphy also calls for the upcoming broadcast rights renewal to include live coverage of All-Ireland finals on one of the Northern Ireland channels, as RTÉ's signal is not accessible everywhere in Ulster. He praises the work of Croke Park in trying to ensure maximum coverage but goes on to say:

"However, the advent of the digital era and contractual issues has led to the All-Ireland hurling and football finals being only viewable on RTÉ. We do need to examine all available options towards this objective in the new contractual arrangement.

“I believe that the need to have All-Ireland finals as part of any live coverage is required to meet the interest of our members or those in our province who watch our games or are interested in these great national events, regardless of the participants.”