Resignation of ref will spark recruitment crisis
Antrim county board secretary Frankie Quinn believes that the task of recruiting new referees will now be rendered more difficult following the decision of Ray Matthews to step down from his whistler’s role.
Quinn, himself a former high-profile referee with ten years experience, acknowledges that there is considerable sympathy for the plight in which Matthews found himself when the Ulster Council Hearings Committee rescinded the ban on St Mary’s Rasharkin playing in competitions above Minor level next year.
The ban was imposed by the Antrim Competitions Control Committee following a detailed investigation into the violent incidents that marred the end of the St Mary’s v Lamh Dhearg Under-21 championship final during which whistler Matthews was assaulted.
Now Quinn, who has been an Antrim delegate to the Ulster Council in the past and has served as provincial Hurling Development Officer, believes that the abuse to which referees are being subjected has become much too pronounced.
“You get the habitual verbal abusers hanging over fences at matches targeting referees and they are people we can do without,” says Quinn.
“When verbal violence translates into physical violence we have a much bigger problem on our hands.”
While the drive to attract new referees is ongoing in every county, it is particularly robust in Antrim where both football and hurling enjoy huge popularity and where the overall fixtures list dwarfs that of some other counties.
“Obviously we need all the referees we can get but it is not being made any easier to get them on board because of what is happening,” says Quinn, one of Ulster’s top administrators.
“Nonetheless we must continue our trawl and it is important that we try and get people who have the same qualities as the likes of Ray Matthews.”
Yet he also questions whether enough thought is being put into the actual recruitment process, given that clubs believe it is incumbent on them to provide referees.
“As things stand, a club member who feels he wants to contribute something might to our games put up his hand at a meeting and he will be taken on board for training and end up as a referee,” points out Quinn.
“But while he may know the rules and have a feel for the game, he may not necessarily have the other qualities that are needed to be the man in the middle.
“It’s like having a driving licence but that does not mean that you are capable of driving in a Formula One Grand Prix.”
Quinn insists that clubs will “reap what they sow” if they provide referees who do not come up to standard.
However, he also concedes it’s only by being pitched into games that their credentials can be observed.
Antrim chairman Jim Murray has expressed disappointment that Ray Matthews has quit and hopes that this will not deter any potential referees from coming forward.
“There is no doubt that we have lost a good referee in Ray Mathews and that is a terrible pity, particularly given the circumstances in which he has stood down,” said Murray.
“We have to learn from this and ensure that our referees are accorded respect at all times.
“It is a fact that when decisions which referees make are subsequently overturned by whatever committee this has to impact on the morale of the whistlers.”