A Northern Ireland female referee has become caught up in a sexism row after she was insulted by players.
In an incident which echoes the Andy Gray and Richard Keys controversy, local referee Ruth-Anne Wright (20) was heckled by disgruntled footballers as they left the pitch at Seaview Park, on the Shore Road on March 1.
Irish League football club Carrick Rangers has now been fined £750 for the sexist remarks some of its players made at the end of an IFA Harry Cavan Youth Cup game.
The fine was imposed under the disciplinary code article relating to discrimination.
Ruth-Anne, who has been officiating for five years, was in charge of the semi-final clash between Carrick Rangers Colts and Glenavon III, which the latter team won.
As players were leaving the pitch, the referee told the IFA Disciplinary Committee she was subjected to insulting and offensive comments.
“These comments were such things as ‘Andy Gray was right’ and ‘she shouldn't even be here anyway, she’s a girl’,” said Ms Wright.
“Due to the confusion and crowding on the pitch, I was unable to distinguish which players made these comments.
“However, I am 100% certain that they came from Carrick Rangers Colts’ players.”
She added: “I was upset personally as this sort of thing was a major issue in football at that time.
“The comments were sexist and disrespectful towards all women officials and have no place in the game. I believe the players acted in a disgraceful manner.”
On behalf of Carrick Rangers, secretary Noel Patterson, who was at the game, believed the sexist remarks were made about the referee from spectators in the stand, but in a club statement conceded that his players did “aim reactionary comments towards the referee”.
“I am firmly of the opinion that these comments were solely referring to their perceived disappointment at the referee’s handling of the match.
“On behalf of Carrick Rangers FC, I would like to apologise for any offence caused by these comments and we have dealt with this matter internally.
“I also heard other, more serious comments directed to Miss Wright. I believe these comments actually came from the spectators’ area and were not from anyone connected to our club.
“Nevertheless, these comments have no place in society today and we categorically condemn those who made them.”
“We look forward to welcoming Miss Wright to any future matches she may be asked to officiate at which feature Carrick Rangers.”
Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys (below right) left the TV channel in January after their disparaging remarks about female assistant referee Sian Massey. The pair were at the centre of a media storm after the controversial off-air remarks about Ms Massey’s ability to referee. Gray (55) claimed that women don't know the offside rule, while his 53-year-old colleague said that someone should explain the offside rule to Ms Massey. Gray was sacked after new footage from 2010 came to light in which he appeared to make a suggestive comment to a female colleague. Keys resigned as a result of the furore.