Referee calls for 'real sanctions' following alleged assault at Roscommon underage game

Footage circulating online appears to show the match official lying on the ground and receiving medical attention
Referee calls for 'real sanctions' following alleged assault at Roscommon underage game

Updated: 1.45pm

GAA referee David Gough has called on the sporting organisation to introduce "real sanctions" for anyone who does not adhere to regulations on the treatment of referees.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One, Mr Gough, who is a senior referee at intercounty level, said that a “massive culture change” was needed and that it needed to "come from on high".

His comments come after Roscommon GAA confirmed it has launched an investigation following an alleged assault on a referee at an underage club game in Ballyforan on Wednesday night.

Mr Gough said that while he had never personally experienced physical abuse, and did not know how he would react if it happened, he said he experiences verbal abuse at local games. He added these incidents were unwelcome and unwarranted, and homophobic on occasion.

Such abuse could have an impact on the mental health of referees, Mr Gough warned.

Abuse was very rare at intercounty championship games, that was not to say that it did not happen, but verbal abuse was difficult to detect when wearing an earpiece and there was a large crowd, he explained.

It was even more worrying that the assault on the referee in Roscommon had happened during an underage game, he said, adding it was unacceptable.

'Zero-tolerance'

Earlier, Roscommon GAA issued a statement on the matter, saying it "strongly condemns" behaviour which puts officials at risk.

"Roscommon GAA is aware of an incident involving a referee during an underage match in Ballyforan on Wednesday evening.

"We would like to wish the referee involved in this incident a speedy recovery. Roscommon GAA strongly condemns any behaviour that puts any of our match officials at risk," it added.

It is understood that the match was abandoned during the second half following the alleged incident.

Senator Shane Cassells said the matter has further highlighted the need for a clampdown on abuse in sport.

Speaking on Thursday morning, the Meath West Senator said we must take a "zero-tolerance approach to abuse in sport going forward".

"The stats produced by Dr Noel Brick from Ulster University showed that 94.29 per cent of 438 GAA referees surveyed experienced verbal abuse, with 23.06 per cent reporting physical abuse.

"Last night was a reaffirmation of how real these stats are, and online abuse is feeding a lot of the hatred that is then manifesting itself in physical abuse," Mr Cassells said.

"Yesterday, veteran GAA referee Maurice Deegan (Laois) came out and said that 'social media is a curse on refereeing' and is having a major impact on the recruitment of new match officials.

"Our Oireachtas report on the elimination of abuse in sport set out a number of recommendations namely the removal of funding for organisations who breach codes of conduct.

"This has to be on the table in order to clampdown on the abuse faced by officials, referees and players," he added.

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