Dublin referees cancel planned strike

By David Seagrave

The Dublin branch of the Irish Soccer Referee Society (ISRS) have cancelled a formerly planned two week strike.  

The planned strike followed incidents of assault and attempted assault on referees in Dublin. Referee assaults can carry a minimum ban of one year, however both instances resulted in suspensions of less than seven games. 

ISRS’s Dublin branch had previously said that they would ‘withdraw their services’  at all levels of the game from 18th November – 2nd December, however they reversed the decision following talks with the Football Association of Ireland.

(Image source- Irish Soccer Referees Society)

Last month it emerged that 234 reports of assault had been submitted to the ISRS, spanning across 18 of their 27 branches. Of those 234 reports, eight were physical assaults. 

The FAI released a statement following the news of the planned strike, with CEO Jonathan Hill saying, “the FAI will do whatever we have to do”. 

“Our disciplinary regulations carry clear and serious sanctions to be enforced on anyone who abuses a match official, and we are calling on all leagues to enforce those sanctions. We cannot, and will not tolerate any abuse aimed at a referee at any level of the game,” the statement added 

David Bergin, Vice Chairman of St Francis FC says that more needs to be done to address assaults against referees. 

“For the referees, it’s a hard job, it’s a thankless job. Nobody ever says ‘thanks for a great performance, they always have one comment or two comments. We have tried to instill that in our club, and we feel that we’ve made real progress. But that’s not the case everywhere.

“I believe that every club is working towards an environment that’s safe for players, coaches and especially referees. For the refs, it’s frustrating that it isn’t translating onto the pitch all the time.”

 “The FAI have done some great video work on how to treat referees on the side-line… it’s a lot more prevalent this year, I don’t know what it is. There must be a reason for people being more vocal, but nobody benefits from it,” Bergin added.

When asked about the lack of lengthy bans for offenders, Bergin replied “I don’t think anyone, in any club, would question a lengthy ban.”

“They get a few bob to cover their transport costs, but it’s not phenomenal money, you know? It’s a great service, the kids need to be playing and they need referees. You don’t learn [the rules] without referees.”

 Despite criticism of the bans, Bergin also noted that the leagues were run on a voluntary basis – and that clubs also have to take responsibility. 

“We understand how difficult it is for leagues to administrate and come up with the right size ban for everyone. Everyone appeals everything. The leagues have a thankless job as well, a bit of cop on is needed from everyone; the clubs, the coaches and the players, to make sure that we aren’t forcing volunteers to have to conduct these types of meetings and to go through the processes they have in place. 

“We should be able to talk about the football, and the performances, and how we can improve going into the next week. We shouldn’t have to talk about referees,” Bergin added.

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