Limerick soccer referee society issue statement following alleged assault

Tom Clancy

Reporter:

Tom Clancy

Email:

sport@limerickleader.ie

Limerick soccer referee society issue statement following alleged assault

A referee was alleged to have been spat at and punched

THE LIMERICK DESMOND LEAGUE has become embroiled in a dispute with the Limerick West Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society. This dispute has resulted in match officials withdrawing their services from Desmond League games, which has seen all three junior divisions and youths cup delayed, with games last Saturday and Sunday postponed. Schoolboy/girl and Ladies football in the area, remains unaffected. On Tuesday evening, the referees have issued a statement regarding the situation, and their stance on the incident where one of their members was allegedly punched and spat at. 

In total, 33 teams are affiliated to the three tiers of junior football, with 13 involved in two youths divisions. However, with the season heading towards a conclusion, football has been put on hold for all sides.

The dispute relates to an incident involving the alleged assault of a match official after a game. It is alleged that the match official on the evening was assaulted by two people. This game was played on March 19 and it appears that an agreeable punishment and solution hasn’t been found, with 13 games between Saturday and Sunday last, postponed.

Clubs attended a meeting last week, regarding the situation. In an e-mail to all clubs, the stated purpose of the meeting was in relation to the incident mentioned above.

“Please be advised that a very important meeting will be held in Rathkeale House on next Wednesday 8/5/19 at 8.00 to discuss the ongoing situation and to discuss the remainder of season.” it read.

When contacted by the Limerick Leader on Tuesday afternoon, league secretary, Eddie O' Shaughnessy, declined to comment on the situation, merely stating that the “referees are unavailable at this time”.

This was following correspondence to all clubs late on Saturday evening, when O’Shaughnessy informed all clubs of the cancellation of Sundays fixtures.

“The m/c (management committee) wish to advise you that all games within our league have been cancelled due to referees declaring themselves unavailable with immediate effect. We will in touch in the near future with further updates”

In a lengthy statement on the Irish Soccer Referees Society Limerick West newly established Facebook page, the referees fear that they “may be facing the people who assaulted our colleague and we don't believe this to be a safe situation to put our members in” if they officiate Abbeyfeale without another person being punished for the incidents following the Youths Division One Cup Semi-Final, last March.

The statement also makes reference to last weeks meeting, claiming there was “anti-referee sentiment” which  “was fuelled from the MC (managing committee) to garnish support for themselves”


Statement in full

"It is with deep and heartfelt sadness we must issue this statement.
We have waited 8 weeks without commenting in the hope that a resolution could be found. Sadly none to date.

On March 19th following a cup game our member had to endure an unprovoked attack on his person. Firstly as he made his way to the exit gate from the pitch after the game ended he was verbally abused and brushed against by a spectator then a home team player who was in front of the referee turned back and verbally abused him also. He identified this player and showed him a red card.

Then in a cowardly act he was punched from behind to his right hand kidney area and as he turned around to see the culprit he was spat on the face from the left hand side. Eventually he made it to his car in the car park and after a while left the ground.

Thankfully he was fit to drive despite being in shock for some time and made his way to a Garda station to report the incident. He submitted 3 reports to the Management Committee (MC). 1 spectator assault. 2 red card of player. 3 assault from behind.

Our response was to protect all our members by advising them not to referee this club on their own until the culprits were identified and dealt with by the MC, As a way of allowing the club continue to fulfill their fixtures we offered to officiate them as a trio again until the matter was resolved.

This action was taken to protect the safety of our members. The club's response was to try to discredit the referee by calling some players "names" and red carding the wrong player. He denied this and was certain he got the correct player for abusing him as the player was in front of him.

The MC sent the assault report to the DCU to be heard but was returned to them to deal with as the season had already commenced since the new changes came into force. The MC dealt with reports 1 and 2 and we have no issue with that but the handling of the assault report 3 that is our concern.

The club produced the name of a player whom they said had owned up to them that he committed both offences ( punching and spitting). The MC on again reading the referees report agreed that it was feasible that the individual could have committed both offences despite the report saying they came from opposite sides.

On receiving this decision we again contacted the MC to state that the referee was clear that he was assaulted by two persons. No resolution was found and eventually it was agreed to hold a meeting on May 7th between members of our committee the league committee and FAI reps.

The league again ruled out our suggestion of a trio to get games played and the FAI stance was that the FAI legal dept. had endorsed the league's handling of the report. We have since requested a copy of this endorsement but it has not been forthcoming.

We then advised both parties that the assaulted referee had been contacted by the Gardai and informed that the young man named and suspended by the league had gone to the Garda station and put on record that he had committed neither assault. This evidence was dismissed by the FAI reps who insist that the case was dealt with.

In the end a proposal was put on the table to carry back to our members to decide on. It was agreed by all to give us 48 hours to call a meeting. The following night the MC decided to hold an information night for the clubs. Why this was done while a proposal was on the table baffles us as they were aware they would have no answer from us for another 24 hours at least. We were not invited to make a statement or have any input to their information night.

Led from the top table this turned out to be a referee bashing exercise. Remember a referee was assaulted and a comment from the top table of "if you sneeze now there's a report sent in"was not in he least helpful.

Another comment from the top was "we will split the referees branch" which has had the opposite effect. Many delegates made insulting and hurtful remarks about our members. In fact some have come back and written an apology for what they said and we accept that.

This anti referee sentiment was fueled from the MC to garnish support for themselves. As you can imagine this was not appreciated by our members at our meeting which was deferred to Friday night where it was decided by all the members to make themselves unavailable to referee Youths and Junior Football in the Desmond Football League until the culprits are found and dealt with by the league. As it stands the MC have 14 names from the match card for the game in question and 2 of those players assaulted a referee so why can it not be dealt with?

If we return to referee this club's Youths A or B teams we may be facing the people who assaulted our colleague and we don't believe this to be a safe situation to put our members in.

We feel sorry for the clubs awaiting cup finals and seeking promotion as this is not of their making but as we enter the 9th week since the assault a stand has to be made and feel sorry for the senior referees in our branch who may now have retired from Junior football, but we must protect the upcoming young referees or nobody will take up the hobby.

We must acknowledge that the club did write to the assaulted referee to apologise albeit some 6 weeks after the event but we acknowledge the apology. The history of our branch will show that we have never been disruptive and always had a good working relationship with the league until that ill-advised information meeting.

Limerick West Branch I.S.R.S."