Give our referees a break!

The days, following championship games are often a good time to reflect! I have already voiced my opinion on the work carried out by clubs in hosting a major game but there is something that has bothered me for quite some time but I have kept putting it back.

Not a popular subject with all our readers and certainly not with those who I refer to in this article but something that I feel needs saying. There is much preparation that goes into getting a ground ready for a big game as there is a lot of work over a season in preparation of a team for whatever their ultimate goal for the season may be.

The stark facts are that only one team in any competition reaches that goal but that in no way reflects on the efforts of the other teams in that competition who may have put in as many or more hours on the training field.

None of the games that occur in any of these competitions would be possible without an appointed referee. (OK so sometimes teams may toss for one when the appointed official doesn’t turn up) but despite the high demand on our match officials 99% of games have appointed referees.

Depending on the significance of those games referees will often bring umpires with them and on big match days like Sunday the officiating team can be as big as ten members so obviously these officials are vitally important to the successful completion of our games.

It would be wishful thinking  to say that these officials are universally appreciated for the tireless work they do in refereeing our games, whether it be in Antrim our throughout Ireland but over a number of years I have been alarmed at just the level of verbal and sometimes threatening abuse that is being meted out to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I have often disagreed with some refereeing decisions and voiced my opinion too loudly on occasions, particularly in the past when I have managed teams or just been there supporting my own team. I have to say though with heart in hand I have immediately regretted my outburst and wished that I could have taken it back.

Since hanging up my coaching cap and taking up the camera I’m something of a neutral at most of the games I attend and can view games through a different pair of glasses. It may be that old age has played a part but I’m horrified at times at the level of abuse shouted at referees.

It’s one thing to dispute a decision but there are those who go much further. A particular source of annoyance is the wag who shouts incessantly from the throw in to the final whistle, an attention seeker who thinks he’s being entertaining by his abusive comments. He will usually have a few likeminded people around him who laugh at him.

He’s not entertaining, he’s embarrassing! And serves no purpose at the game save to draw attention to himself and bring his club into disrepute.

Antrim at present have a fine young crop of referees coming through. They are dedicated GAA men and women who are doing their best to serve their county and the association and without them our games could not continue.

The complexity of GAA rules ensures that they will not get every decision right but I honestly believe no referee goes out to deliberately give wrong decisions. A few years ago at a match in Creggan I overheard a player berate referees to the then Creggan chairman, Tony McCollum.

In a flash Tony gave an answer that has stuck in my mind “Do you know how you can improve refereeing in Antrim” Tony asked. “No how” the player asked. “Take up refereeing” was Tony’s rely. End of conversation!

I feel that the opinions I have expressed will have little or no bearing on those who consistently berate and abuse referees and if any of them were offered a whistle they would run a mile but if it strike a note with even a few then I feel it is worthwhile.

No matter how good or bad out teams are and how little or how much work they put in in preparation for their games those games cannot go ahead without the man in the middle.

So please give our referees a break!

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