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Government minister condemns incident after referee allegedly assaulted at underage GAA match remains in hospital

  • Jack Chambers said the incident needed to be investigated in full
  • The referee injured during the under-17 match is still being treated in hospital

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The referee lies on the ground after an alleged assault during a match in Roscommon

The referee lies on the ground after an alleged assault during a match in Roscommon

The Roscommon County Board have launched an investigation into an alleged assault on a ref

The Roscommon County Board have launched an investigation into an alleged assault on a ref

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The referee lies on the ground after an alleged assault during a match in Roscommon

A Government junior minister has spoken out after an alleged attack on the pitch left a GAA referee in hospital.

Jack Chambers, a minister of state for sport, said his thoughts were with the referee following the incident.

It comes as it emerged the victim remains in hospital today following the incident at an under-17 football game on Wednesday night.

Mr Chambers highlighted the importance of protecting and respecting referees in all sports.

“I condemn the disgraceful incident that occurred at a GAA match yesterday,” he said.

“This matter needs to be investigated in full by the relevant authorities and any individual found responsible for harming a match official needs to be held to account.

“My thoughts are with the referee.”

He said referees are central to sport and participation in communities.

“Our games cannot happen without them. A very strong message must go out that any abuse of match officials is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in sport.

“Referees must be respected and protected in all sports.”

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Roscommon GAA are investigating the alleged assault.

Footage of the game, played in Ballyforan, shows the referee lying on the pitch and receiving medical attention.

An ambulance was later called to the scene and the referee was brought to hospital.

The incident occurred early in the second half of the match, which was immediately abandoned.

“Roscommon GAA strongly condemns any behaviour that puts any of our match officials at risk,” reads a statement from the county board released this morning.

“The CCC will commence a full investigation into the incident

“We will not be making any further comment at this time.”

It is understood no player was involved.

The Gardai are conducting enquiries into the alleged assault. 

“Gardaí are aware of a video circulating on social media of an alleged incident at a sports ground in Co. Roscommon on Wednesday evening, 31st August 2022,” read a statement.

“Gardaí are conducting enquiries into the matter.”

Senator Shane Cassells has said the alleged assault has further highlighted the need for a clampdown on abuse in sport.

The Meath Senator said: "This morning we are waking up to shocking reports of an alleged assault of a referee at a GAA match.

"The time to clampdown on abuse in sports was yesterday and we must take a zero-tolerance approach to abuse in sport going forward.

“The stats produced by Dr Noel Brick from Ulster University showed that 94.29% of 438 GAA referees surveyed experienced verbal abuse, with 23.06% reporting physical abuse.

“Last night was a reaffirmation of how real these stats are.

“And online abuse is feeding a lot of the hatred that is then manifesting itself in physical abuse.

“Yesterday veteran GAA referee Maurice Deegan (Laois) came out and said that “social media is a curse on refereeing” and is having a major impact on the recruitment of new match officials.

"Our Oireachtas report on the elimination of abuse in sport set out a number of recommendations namely the removal of funding for organisations who breach codes of conduct.

"This has to be on the table in order to clampdown on the abuse faced by officials, referees and players.”

Referee David Gough said abuse of referees is "unwelcome" and "often unwarranted" and it affects people's mental wellbeing.

Mr Gough said he was shocked to hear of the incident in Roscommon and passed on his well wishes to the referee involved.

"A referee who went to referee a match last night left his home probably and picked up some umpires and never felt any anxiety in relation to maybe danger on the pitch and for it to result in such a horrific incident last night is extremely unfortunate," he said.

"I would say that I've never experienced physical abuse and I don't know what I would do or how I would react if it did happen. I certainly have experienced some level of verbal abuse on occasion.

"And I have gone on record with saying definitely within my own county when you're at a club game it's much easier to hear that abuse in a small club ground where there might only be 100 people or at an underage game rather than inside the stadium at Croke Park.

"Abuse is often unwarranted and it has been homophobic on occasion, and it does distress people and cause a certain amount of anxiety and affect people's mental health and wellbeing."

Mr Gough said it is rare for referees to receive the same level of abuse at championship level.

The Meath native said a "massive" cultural change needs to come from the top level within the GAA.

"That's not to say it doesn't happen but with a microphone clipped to your chest and an earpiece in your ear, you're not going to hear much of what's been said at the sideline," he told RTÉ's News At One.

"But in a club ground it's definitely more audible and it's something to be worried about. It's definitely unacceptable and particularly at underage levels where you're trying to create a love of gaelic games."

St Aidan’s GAA club, where the match took place, added: “St Aidan’s GAA club is currently investigating an incident that occurred during a U-17 championship game on our club grounds on Wednesday evening.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the referee, and we wish him a speedy recovery. We would also like to thank the medical personnel who assisted him following the incident.

“The club will co-operate fully with the Roscommon CCC and Roscommon GAA in their investigation of the matter.

“We will not be making any further comment at this time.”


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