FAI badly needs to tackle problem, says 20-year-old
A schoolboy soccer referee has highlighted the level of abuse he suffers on a weekly basis and has called on the game's top brass to take action urgently.
Harry McCann (20) has been an official in the Kildare underage league for nearly five years and says the "toxic" abuse he and other referees consistently suffer must be tackled head on by the FAI.
At the weekend Mr McCann was forced to abandon a match after he was repeatedly sworn at, had a 14-year-old physically square up to him, and two spectators threatened to "meet him" in the car park.
"The amount of people who receive abuse is incredible. I just heard of one 17-year-old girl who had to abandon two games since September," Mr McCann told the Irish Independent.
"In one match yesterday, two spectators walked over to me and offered to 'meet me outside in the car park'.
"I had asked two people to leave the field of play but they did not and continued to be abusive. I was called a 'f***ing cabbage' by one person who came on the pitch. All hell broke loose.
"I decided I don't get paid to take this abuse and called it off. My report on the incident was over 1,000 words long. It was incredible. I honestly have never received as much abuse in all my time as a ref. Players, managers, parents and fans all abusing me."
Mr McCann adds there is too much good within underage football to throw the towel in and is committed to the job and striving for change. But he warns: "There will come a day when someone goes too far."
Last November, three Mullingar Town players were banned from all football activity for 40 years each following an assault on referee Daniel Sweeney. Mr Sweeney was hospitalised after he was attacked at the end of a game between Horseleap United and Mullingar Town.
"I thought the Daniel Sweeney incident would be a huge step forward in regards to fixing the problem. But it obviously hasn't. A lot of the time it gets bad, and when people threaten to meet you after games or threaten physical violence, you have to worry.
"The leagues don't tolerate it and I commend them in dealing with it but we need to do more at the top. The FAI really needs to attack this or there will be serious consequences."