There is a serious problem in football at the moment. As the FAI attempt to solve the issues they are having in the boardroom, they continue to ignore the problem that is plaguing the game at grassroots level.
The abuse received by match officials on a consistent basis throughout the country is nothing short of a disgrace. It has seeped into all levels of the game, where referees are continually abused by players, managers, and spectators alike.
This abuse have even crossed into physical violence at times. The assault of referee Daniel Sweeney hit national headlines at the end of last year, and this is not an isolated incident.
Considering all of this, it is not surprising that the number of young people who choose to enter refereeing is on the decline. Even those who do enter the trade are tending to walk away, as we saw today.
Harry McCann, a 20-year old referee, tweeted earlier today that he had walked away from the sport due to the treatment he has received. It paints a damning picture of the current state of Irish football at grassroots level.
Today I had an U13 soccer manager attempt to strike me while refereeing.
After 4 years of abuse and violent threats, I have to decided to call it quits.
The FAI do not care about the safety and wellbeing of referees, and I no longer feel safe being involved in the game. pic.twitter.com/oU3KQz65e7
— Harry McCann (@TheHarryMcC) June 22, 2019
After years of reports and complaints going ignored and unresponsded to, I have lost confidence in the local leagues and the FAI. There seems to be no plan or strategy in place to deal with abusive parents and managers, and this is destroying the game at all levels.
The IRFU and other sporting bodies have enforced zero tolerance policies on sidelines successfully, and this helps to protect match officials and players. The FAI have been unable to do this, and this has slowly ruined the game.
The lack of action being taken against abusive parents and managers is putting referees at serious risk. There have been far too many referees assaulted in recents months, and I'm not going to wait around to be another name on the list of referees who have ended up in hospital.
It is time that the FAI do something. As Harry mentions, the treatment of referees in football pales in comparison to other sports such as rugby.
If this is allowed to continue, there will come a time when games will be continually be called off due to a lack of match officials.