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Sanctions to be beefed up after attack left ref in surgery for 5 hours

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Daniel Sweeney had several plates inserted in his jaw

Daniel Sweeney had several plates inserted in his jaw

Daniel Sweeney had several plates inserted in his jaw

Referee Daniel Sweeney underwent five gruelling hours of surgery in which several plates were inserted in his jaw following a savage attack at the end of a senior football match last weekend.

The married father-of-two was left with horrific injuries - including two fractures to his jaw, a fractured eye socket and numerous cuts to his nose - after thugs attacked him following the match between Horseleap United and Mullingar Town last Sunday in Horseleap, Co Offaly.

Mr Sweeney, originally from Co Donegal but living in Mullingar, will remain at St James's Hospital over the weekend and will be recovering at home for up to eight weeks, according to Irish Soccer Referees' Society (ISRS) president Paul O'Brien.

Hooligans

Speaking on RTE Radio 1's Today With Sean O'Rourke yesterday, Mr O'Brien said the good news is the surgery went well and Mr Sweeney's prognosis is "as good as can be expected".

However, he said sanctions against players and club members who attack referees must be beefed up after the unprecedented assault.

The hooligans who attacked Mr Sweeney should be given a lifetime ban from attending matches, he added.

Mr O'Brien met with Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney on Thursday night to discuss the issue, and it was agreed that a tiered system of sanctions - depending on the severity of the assault - will be put in place.

"The first thing I put to them was that at the moment, as it stands, anyone that assaults a referee gets a minimum of a one-year suspension," Mr O'Brien said.

"Now we did look at the English model where it's a five-year suspension and we looked at the Scottish model for a 10-year suspension.

"We felt that was too simplistic, so what we've agreed to is a tiered structure with assault, so obviously the more serious the assault, the stronger the sanction."

Mr O'Brien said the football governing body has agreed to set up a working group to examine the issue and will report back to the ISRS before the FAI's EGM in January, at which the new sanctions are expected to be introduced.

"I'm refereeing 24 years and that's the most serious assault I've seen. This kind of vicious assault is not the norm," he said.

"But in cases like that, we have to be looking at life suspension for people that assaulted Daniel the way they did."

The new rules may also include sanctions against those engaging in abusive commentary against referees on social media and other online platforms.

"We're not just looking at assaults, we're going to look at the whole idea of disparaging comments on social media by clubs and how best to deal with abuse," he said.

"Because ultimately, at the end of the day, it's the players and the managers and the coaches that have to take responsibility here for their own actions."

Trolls

While Mr O'Brien said it's "not so much clubs" that are posting abusive comments about referees, there are trolls on soccer forums.

"You have individuals from clubs thinking they can go on of a Sunday evening and say what they want about referees and that there's no comeback on them," he said.

However, the ISRS wants to see what it can do to clamp down on such online abuse, which he believes may encourage violence against referees.

"This is maybe not the main cause of it, but it has a contributing factor to it," he said.

He conceded that "there is no easy fix" to the problem.

However, he said the meeting with Mr Delaney and two other senior FAI officials at the Ireland and Northern Ireland match was very positive.


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