Referee Daniel Sweeney underwent gruelling five-hour surgery after savage attack
Referee Daniel Sweeney underwent five gruelling hours of surgery in which 'four to five' plates were inserted into his jaw following a savage attack following a senior football match last weekend.
The married father-of-two was left with horrific injuries – including a jaw broken in two places, a fractured eye socket and numerous lacerations to his nose – after thugs attacked him following the match between Horseleap United and Mullingar Town last Sunday.
Mr Sweeney will remain at St James Hospital for the next two days following the operation and will be recovering at home for up to eight weeks after that, according to Paul O’Brien, President of the Irish Soccer Referee Society (ISRS).
Speaking to Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio One’s 'Today with Sean O’Rourke' this morning, Mr O’Brien said the good news is the surgery went well and Mr Sweeney’s prognosis is "as good as can be expected."
But he said sanctions against players and club members who attack referees must be beefed up following the unprecedented attack on Mr Sweeney.
The hooligans who attacked Mr Sweeney should be given a life-time ban from attending matches, he said.
He met with head of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) John Delaney on Thursday night to discuss the issue.
"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. 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," he said.
"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."
"And I have to say that the FAI were very supportive of this," he said, adding that the 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, inwhen the new sanctions will be introduced.
As for sanctions against those responsible for attacking Mr Sweeney, he said the attack on the referee was unprecedented here.
"I’m refereeing 24 years and that’s the most serious assault I’ve seen. This kind of vicious assault is not the norm. 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 going to look at the whole idea of disparaging comments on social media by clubs and how best to deal with abuse," he said.
"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."