When there is a discussion about arbitration, it is usually about the norm and the lack of quality arbitrators. Well, there is an arbitration crisis coming, and it will just be to be happy to have an arbitrator.
Last weekend a number of Mid Division games had to be called off because there was no one to officiate. Okay, there was a perfect storm last weekend that saw 24 county championship games across the top three hurling grades, all of which require three umpires in each game, two to act as judges. lines. Then there was a busy weekend in camogie and women’s football as well, which are also pulling from the same umpires, so it wasn’t surprising to see some games having to give way.
However, the cancellation of matches in the Mid is not once. As head referee Fergal Horgan pointed out in this article last week, an Under-17 game in the west couldn’t be played recently because they couldn’t get a referee, so that the same thing happened in the south. Indeed, the South Board had to make the decision to block their junior hurling ‘B’ championship a few weeks ago because they knew they wouldn’t have enough referees if they scheduled the matches. at the same time, the North is already in the semi-finals.
Also in the South, referees from Waterford have been brought in on occasion to referee matches to make sure they run, while Camogie and Ladies Football have gone to Cork for referees on occasion.
Since the pandemic, Fergal Horgan said, Tipperary GAA’s pool of arbitrators has fallen from nearly 130 to just over eighty, a drop of between 50 and 60 percent. These are numbers that are unsustainable and in an era when clubs increasingly seek games across all levels, ranks and codes, county councils may well have to design structures based on the number. of arbitrators they must arbitrate. .
This issue has arisen as the age profile of current referees ages from year to year and the number of new referees taking the whistle is rare. Only sixteen people signed up for the new Tipperary Referee Course which was postponed until next year. It’s a start, but this number of new referees is needed every year.
So what can be done to get more people to take the whistle, and I include women in that given that Kilkenny’s Liz Dempsey is one of the most impressive umpires I’ve seen in any what a Gaelic Games competition this year in camogie.
Money is not the answer. If you increase the match fee for a referee, you could end up getting people to referee matches for the wrong reason of having good financial backing, rather than being fair and impartial in the game itself.
Of course, more support is needed. New referees tend to be welcomed with open arms, but once they’re trained and have played their first matches, they tend to be left on their own after that, except when they level up. superior of the inter-county competition where there is feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.
There is a stock of retired referees who could act as mentors for any new incoming referee, or even for current referees, as confidants. It’s not an easy job and not helped by the criticism they get, not just the pitch that most referees accept comes with the territory, but it’s the sideline and fan stuff, which many do not know the rules anyway, which can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some officials to give up altogether.
Let him sinlessly throw the first stone and I put my hands up and in frustration I shouted things from the sideline and / or standing that I regretted but at the end of the day any referee whoever enters the field will judge as best they can on what they see in front of them.
The task of finding new referees tends to fall on clubs, but it is a complete waste of time, because unless club officers ask each of their members individually, how to know who might be interested and who might not. Arbitration is almost like the priesthood, where people come forward.
Tipperary has a trump card he can count on having the best hurling referee in the country at Fergal Horgan. A start would be to have Fergal come to a centralized location in each of the four divisions on any given night, from where people who might have an interest in becoming a referee could go talk to him and hear from the horses the rewards of being a referee, and also how to deal with the downsides, and from there, deciding if being the middle person is for them.