THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE Referee John Walker is pictured officiating at last Sunday’s Mayo SFC first round match between Breaffy and Claremorris. Pic: John Corless
A LEADING Mayo GAA official and top referee has said he would not tolerate incursions onto the pitch by club officials, intent on abusing or assaulting match officials.
County Board PRO John Walker — who is also one of Mayo’s most experienced and well-known referees — was speaking in the wake of last week’s incident at a minor football match in Roscommon, where a referee was allegedly assaulted by a club official.
Speaking to The Mayo News last Sunday, ahead of the Mayo SFC clash between Claremorris and Breaffy which he was refereeing, John Walker said that such incidents shouldn’t be tolerated.
“I don’t condone it,” he said. “All referees have to support each other on the ground. Roscommon county board are investigating this alleged incident, and I understand why the referees decided to withdraw their services in the county, at the weekend. It’s understandable they would go out and support a colleague.”
The Cill Chomáín clubman said that referees in other counties were awaiting the outcome of the investigation, and that each GAA Board had its own policy on how such matters should be dealt with.
“Referees are human and will make mistakes like everyone else, but abuse and assaults cannot be tolerated,” he said. “I’m sixteen years refereeing and I have made mistakes myself and been verbally abused. But thankfully, I have never been assaulted.
“The Mayo County Board are very supportive of the referees in the county,” he added.
“We have just come off a referees’ refresher course with our co-ordinator, Seán MacÉil, in advance of the new championship season and I have had discussions with him so see if we could come up with a policy to help protect referees.
“I hope to bring forward proposals to the County Board soon, in this regard.
“I am hopeful it will be implemented. It will involve the clubs, but I cannot go into the detail of it before bringing it to the Board. It’s something I hope the County Board will adopt and that other counties will adopt too.”
Mr Walker said he would fully support the use of stewards inside the pitch surrounds, protecting officials during and at the end of matches.
The Mayo GAA PRO said that are twelve new referees in the county this year, as a result of a recent recruitment drive.