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Fitzgerald calls for lifetime bans for abusing referees

Waterford senior hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald has called for a lifetime ban for anyone who abuses referees.

Fitzgerald’s comments come after a series of incidents over the past weekend in Roscommon, Kerry, Wexford and Mayo where match officials were assaulted.

Games were abandoned at both underage and senior level across the country. Referees are up in arms with talk of possible strikes by match officials in support of their colleagues.

Last night, referees in Wexford voted not to go on strike, but to instead make all clubs go through a workshop on their conduct toward match officials.

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A meeting in Wexford last night meeting determined that all clubs in the county must hold a workshop for mentors from Under 11 to adult level by next Wednesday.

All clubs must confirm to the Wexford executive no later than the following day that the workshop has taken place, and details of who was in attendance must be clarified as well as any findings arising from the discussions.

Speaking at the launch of Londis’ sponsorship of Ireland’s Fittest Family, Davy Fitzgerald called for strict punishment for anyone who abuses or intimidates a match official.

"We can’t tolerate hitting anybody, any official in the GAA, whether they get something really wrong, really right, there is no room for it. I’d be a fella that would have given out to referees and would have found it hard to understand decisions but it’s a tough job. For anyone to do that job is incredibly tough. My feeling is the GAA are going to have to be very hard-handed in how they deal with it.”

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Acknowledging his own run-ins with match officials down the years, the Clare man outlined his belief that there should be clearer channels of communication for those on the side-lines to remonstrate with officials.

“What I’d really like to see, even from a county point of view, is more communication with the referees. If you look at rugby, there is communication before and after. It’s nice to have a bit of communication so you can understand their side. It shouldn’t be us vs them because let’s be honest, refereeing is a tough, tough job. No matter what, whether we like the decisions they make or don’t make, we have to make sure we protect them and mind them.”

With no technology in use for the most part other than HawkEye, the Deise boss conceded that human error will always play a part in match officiating, but that's something that people will just have to accept.

“The referees themselves know they’re not always right. Once a referee can put his hand up and say ‘I deliberately did not go at any team to do them,’ - we as managers have to accept totally that they’re going to make mistakes. We have to accept that and we have to get on with it. There is no place for attacking a referee or an official. There is no place in the GAA for that. We should be above that, and we’re going to have to deal with that, end of story. We’re going to have to be hard-hitting.”

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