Wexford County Board to petition GAA to remove maximum 96 week suspension for attacks on refs

LAST night (Tuesday) GAA umpires from across the county gathered at Wexford Park, home of the county games. Angered and upset, they arrived to meet members of the District Executive after another unsavory incident involving one of their members. On Sunday, a junior soccer game between St Joseph’s and Our Lady’s Island culminated in an alleged attack on referee Michael Lannigan, drawing national headlines and convictions.

Shortly after a high-profile attack on a referee in Roscommon in recent weeks, there were concerns that Wexford referees would follow their colleagues from across the country and put down the tools. However, when dialogue was initiated with Wexford GAA Chairman Micheál Martin, it quickly became apparent that officials were reluctant to do so.

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Instead, they agreed on a number of measures to be taken in the future to offer referees more protection and officials in general to gain more respect from the sidelines. Perhaps the most striking evidence that Wexford GAA is committed to a zero-tolerance approach to abuse of officers is Mr Martin’s commitment that Wexford GAA will seek national action from the GAA to extend the maximum suspension period of 96 weeks set aside for those found to be physically or abusive to referees or umpires.

Wexford GAA will also propose ‘expulsion/expulsion’ as penalties to be considered in such cases and will urge ‘simplification of the GAA disciplinary system’. It has also been suggested that the GAA should mark playing fields with a designated area for mentors to remain during play, similar to football.

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Other measures agreed at the meeting in Wexford Park included the requirement that all clubs organize a workshop for mentors from under-11s to adults before 5 October this year to “perform a self-evaluation of their behavior towards match officials “. Any club that fails to complete this will have matches rescheduled at all levels.

Wexford GAA will also seek to run a ‘Respect the Ref’ campaign across all classes in 2023, in partnership with Wexford Camogie and LGFA, targeting players of all ages, mentors, parents and supporters.

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In addition, Wexford has told GAA that they “will publish disciplinary measures taken against players and clubs in a timely manner”. “Naming and shaming” is probably intended to act as a deterrent.

Concluding the Wexford GAA statement, their spokesman said:

“The games will continue as scheduled next weekend and all players, mentors, parents and supporters will give our referees and match officials the support they deserve.

“In addition, prior to all games for the remainder of this year, players, team mentors and referees will line up for a pre-game ‘give respect – get respect’ handshake.”