Irish League football short of referees for Premiership kick off
Irish League football is facing a major refereeing headache just days before the start of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Referees' chief David Malcolm says the Irish FA is struggling to find senior referees qualified to take charge of the game's top flight.
There are now only 10 referees on the senior panel compared to 16 in 2008 and Malcolm says the recruitment process needs urgent attention.
"We have only 10 senior refs and that isn't enough," said Malcolm (pictured), the chief appointments officer responsible for senior referees. "We need to have three or four more but if the quality is not there, we cannot hit our target. We have trialled around 14 refs from the Championship over the last few years but it's a big step up to Premiership level and we have not made the progress we hoped. A dedicated coach will now work with the refs in the Championship and we are focusing on the Youth League where we want to establish a pathway for officials to progress."
Meanwhile, referees Ross Dunlop and Raymond Crangle have been stood down from Premiership duty for the first two weeks of the season after a poor performance in the Irish Cup Final in May.