The GAA should be able to impose lifetime bans on those who physically or verbally abuse a referee, Wexford County Board has urged.
Yesterday the board met to discuss how best it could protect referees amid a surge of abuse directed at them.
The solution, they concluded, was stiffer penalties for perpetrators:
“We are recommending to Croke Park that a special congress be called to remove the maximum limit on Category 5 offences - which will be serious, verbal or physical assault of a referee,” Wexford GAA chair Micheál Martin explained to Lunchtime Live.
“There is currently in the rule book a maximum penalty and we would like that penalty removed so that lengthier bans can be imposed.”
96 week ban
The current maximum period an individual can be banned for is 96 weeks - almost two years.
However, Mr Martin says this is far 96 weeks is far too lenient a penalty:
“If you remove the maximum penalty you can have up to and including a life ban from an association in certain cases,” he continued.
“In certain instances, we feel a lifetime ban would be warranted and that there should be discretion to impose such a ban.”
Abuse against referees is not just a problem in Wexford; in Roscommon, referees went on strike earlier this month after an alleged assault in Ballyforan.
All in all, Mr Martin believes tougher penalties is something that has wide support across the GAA:
“If we were to have the special congress we called for, if we were to have it tomorrow morning, I would imagine it would be a unanimous vote to remove the current maximum sentence and allow for a lifetime ban where it is absolutely warranted.”
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