Saturday 16 December 2017

Off The Ball: Referee attack shows rotten culture on our sidelines

What is it that provokes any crowd or individual to physically assault a volunteer who makes a mistake while refereeing a game?
What is it that provokes any crowd or individual to physically assault a volunteer who makes a mistake while refereeing a game?

Ger Gilroy

The alleged assault of a young referee during a Dublin District Schoolboy League game last weekend has left us again wondering about what goes on at sidelines around the country during underage matches.

Roy Kavanagh is a 22-year-old who referees games "because I have a passion for the game and this is my only way of being involved in it".

After refereeing a game of 14-year-olds, he was left with stud marks in his stomach and a swollen hand from trying to block the kicks from his alleged assailant. He got up the next day and refereed another game. It's shocking how unshocked we all are that this has happened.

There's no sport that doesn't have an issue with the sideline in Ireland and these stories appear so often that it is rare they make the news. This one had photos and a brilliant Facebook post from the victim that touched a chord with everyone who read it and hopefully we are forced to stop and think about what's going on.

Sport brings out the worst in people. Of course we love to believe in sport's power of community, its ability to bring people together to socialise and participate and enjoy each other's company in healthy pursuit of new skills.

Equally, sport is responsible for referees getting abused, kids being pressurised to perform, lives being lead vicariously through offspring who'd rather be watching someone else play a video game on YouTube and rising anger on the sidelines.

What is it that provokes any crowd or individual to physically assault a volunteer - or else someone getting paid terribly - who makes a mistake while refereeing a game? What is it that so angers parents about their own children that they'd shout abuse in public, and just as bad heap abuse on the kids of strangers who merely happen to be playing against their kids?

Is it really just down to the need to win or are these people just human potholes as awful in the rest of their lives as they are while "supporting" their teams?

There's no point in making an example of anyone until we realise the culture needs to change.

Irish Independent

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