Belfast Telegraph

Rugby referee subjected to sexist abuse hailed at awards ceremony

Grainne Crabtree with Glenda Mellon (right) and Adrian Millar at the weekend awards ceremony
Grainne Crabtree with Glenda Mellon (right) and Adrian Millar at the weekend awards ceremony
Grainne Crabtree

By Staff Reporter

A female rugby referee who was subjected to a "tirade of profanities" and sexist abuse from the sidelines has been honoured by her peers.

Grainne Crabtree was described as a "driving force of positivity" at the annual Ulster Society of Rugby Football Referees (USRFR) dinner.

She was named society member of the year, while fellow ref Glenda Mellon received the president's award.

Last year during a senior men's game at Coleraine RFC Grainne was referred to as a "slag" by a group of four men.

"As I approached, they jeered and told me I was a 'f****** joke'," she said at the time. One told her to "take off your shorts so we get a better look at your a***".

The jeering and sexual comments from the group of spectators continued in the second half, after which the referee approached the men in an attempt to seek identification for an official report.

One of the men taunted her with a "graphic swear word" which left Ms Crabtree physically sick and feeling "shock, confusion and despair".

In the aftermath the USRFR launched a boycott of the club's home matches after Coleraine RFC received an initial sanction of a suspended £2,000 fine. Referees returned to the club after Coleraine were later fined £5,000.

At the annual USRFR dinner on Saturday in the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush, its president Adrian Millar paid tribute to Grainne and Glenda.

Speaking afterwards he said: "Grainne is a driving force of positivity who has proven her officiating capabilities time and time again. Her communication and conduct is an example to all referees and sportspeople and this reward is a clear reflection of the high esteem in which she is held."

He added: "For my president's award there was only ever one person in my mind deserving of the title. Glenda (Mellon) is someone who is simply always there when help or guidance is needed.

"Her reliability and loyalty have proved invaluable to me throughout my term and together both women represent the very best of the game.

"The work they have done this year has been incredible."

The third major award of the night went to Peter Martin, referee of the year.

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