By Oisin Coyne
Refereeing is arguably the toughest job in sport. With as much physical work to be done on the pitch as the players they are surrounded by, concentration levels and decision making standards have to be 100%. With rule and technology changes being introduced to modern sport to assist referees, there has been mixed feelings and controversy every game day of some sort and the person on the receiving end is always the person holding the whistle.
If you have attended any sporting match before, I’m sure you will have heard phrases like “are you blind ref” or “that’s never offside”. Sport encourages people to showcase their emotions verbally as they spectate games whether they are looking at the World Cup Final on T.V or they are down at their local team watching their kids play. When decisions go against their team, people will always play the victim whether they are wrong or right.
Everyone can understand that human error plays a huge part in refereeing, especially in nonprofessional settings as being able to read every movement on a pitch of 22 players can only be described as “Mission Impossible
To understand the how referees deal with receiving backlash from players and spectators, the student socials Oisin Coyne spoke to former KDUL referee Harry McCann. Harry started by sharing his journey to becoming a referee:
Professional Football Vs Kids Football
Having watched professional football throughout his entire life and moving on from playing the sport himself to refereeing it, Harry outlines the similarities and differences of pro vs kids refereeing.
Examples of Abuse received
While a referee stands on a pitch surrounded by two sets of teams and spectators it can be overwhelming when you receive backlash for your decisions. At lower levels of football, referees aren’t even supported by two linesmen. Instead each team nominates a coach to make the decisions on the sideline in regard to throw-ins and some offsides which can cause controversy in itself.
Harry outlines the abuse he has received:
Response to abuse
Referees will have a plan of action when scenarios of drama happen on the pitch and it is important that they follow these protocols while officiating to ensure everyone’s safety. Harry outlines how he responds to receiving abuse for his decisions on the pitch:
A last resort for referees in situations where their safety is at risk, the last resort is to call off or abandon the match. This can be caused by physical or verbal threats towards the ref or spectators and players. Harry discusses his experience with abandoning fixtures:
How can the FAI protect referees going forward?
As members of the FAI and workers for the organization, it would be expected that when issues arise such as the ones related to abuse that Harry has encountered, that the football association would take action to stop these from happening in the future.
I asked Harry what he believes the FAI could do to tackle the issue: