Wednesday 21 August 2019

'Two spectators wanted to fight me in the carpark' - Young schoolboy referee highlights 'toxic' abuse he receives

Harry McCann
Harry McCann
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

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 underage football for nearly five years and says the "toxic" abuse he and other referees consistently suffer must be tackled head on by the FAI.

Just yesterday in one game, McCann encountered the following issues:

  • Match abandoned
  • Called a "f*****g cabbage"
  • Called a "f*****g faggot by a 14-year-old
  • A 14-year-old squaring up to him
  • Two spectators threatened "to meet him" in the carpark

"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," McCann told Independent.ie.

"In one match yesterday, two spectators walked over to me and offered to 'meet me outside in the carpark'.

"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******g 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."

McCann adds that there is too much good within underage football to throw the towel in and is committed to the job and striving for change.

"There is a lot of good out there but there will come a day when someone goes to far."

Last November, three Mullingar Town players were banned from all football activity for 40 years each in the aftermath of the assault on referee Daniel Sweeney.

Sweeney was hospitalised and treated for head injuries after being assaulted 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 need to attack this or there will be serious consequences."

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