The abuse Irish referees face at underage games around the country every weekend is forcing them to leave the game, according to the Irish Soccer Referee’s Society.
Around 550 matches involving more than 10,000 players in the North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League (NDSL) have been cancelled this weekend due to the ongoing abuse of referees.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, the Irish Soccer Referee’s Society (ISRS) Vice President Sean Slattery said referees had threatened to withdraw their services due to the “constant abuse” they are facing from the side-lines.
In the end, the league took its own decision to suspend this weekend’s fixtures.
Mr Slattery said there are clear rules in place to prevent referee abuse; however, many leagues are not enforcing them properly.
“One of our lady referees was down to do three games last weekend but she walked off after the first match because the abuse got so bad,” he said.
“She would be an experienced official and the abuse from management and spectators got so bad that she didn’t finish the other games.
“Another member that is only a couple of months into his refereeing career went home on Sunday after an under-13s game and decided he wasn’t going to do any more matches.”
He said referees simply want the rules that are in place to be enforced.
“The regulations are there for three years,” he said. “Some were new and some were upgraded so there are minimum sanctions that can be enforced but we are finding that, for repeat offenders, we have to chase things up even to get the basics done right.
“Some of the league disciplinary committees are handing down minimal fines or, if the same people, the same coaches maybe are being reported four or five times a season for abusing referees, why are they still allowed coach? Why are there not lengthy bans?
“The sanctions are there, they are just not being enforced by different leagues.”
He said the ISRS is hoping the situation can be addressed very quickly.
“All we are looking for is enforcement of the current rules,” he said. “We are not looking to change anything and we are not looking for a long drawn-out process.
“The leagues are bound by FAI rules nationwide and that is all we are asking for. Proper enforcement.”
Meanwhile, Junior sports minister Jack Chambers says there should be a zero-tolerance approach to those who threaten or abuse officials.
He said: "The level of abuse referees are being subjected to has obviously escalated this to a whole new level.
"I think we need to stamp it out altogether."
He said the current situation is a "reminder to everyone" to show respect to referees.