Silent Sidelines campaign needed to stop referee abuse

Senator Mark Wall
06 March 2023

Labour sports spokesperson Mark Wall said government must do more to end the scourge of referee abuse during sporting events.

Following an alleged attack on a GAA umpire at the weekend, Senator Wall said that without officials, games simply will not go ahead.

Senator Wall said:

“It’s crazy to think that officials acting in good faith continue to experience abuse, and in some cases, violence, on the sidelines. Without officials, games would not go ahead and children and players would be the ultimate losers in this.

“In January, Government called on Sports Ireland to examine what actions can be taken to tackle abuse aimed at referees. While Government is happy to wait on this, we continue to hear alleged incidents of abuse on the sidelines nationwide. Something must be done about this now.

“As a result of the fear of potential attacks, violence and aggression, many clubs are taking their own measures to stamp out abuse known as the ‘Silent Sidelines’.

“By asking the adults to keep their thoughts to themselves during the game, children can have the opportunity to make their own decisions and follow the call of the coaches and their team mates. It takes the heat out of the sidelines and prevents any miscommunication between adults that sometimes leads to an escalation of tension.

“Government must do more to promote the benefit of the Silent Sidelines and teach adults and children to respect the game. It’s simply unfair and unconscionable to expect referees and umpires to continue to turn up to games when there is a real and genuine threat to their safety.

“We know this is an issue across many clubs and communities. It’s not good enough for government to sit back on their hands and pass the buck to sports clubs that are already under immense pressure just to keep the show on the road. A proactive campaign promoting respect would go a long way to end interference and escalation from the sidelines.

“We’ve all attended games where we’ve heard abuse on the sidelines – the losing team blame a bad referee for example – and this type of discourse only serves to perpetuate a negative atmosphere towards officials. Games can only go ahead with our referees and it’s very concerning to hear the amount of referees leaving within two years of completing the referees beginner’s course, with many citing ‘referee abuse’ as their reason for going. This is hugely damaging and if this trend continues, we will find ourselves without any community games to look forward to.”

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