The Irish Football Association is bringing referees and managers closer together after a recent meeting helped ease tensions between the two groups.
Title-chasing Cliftonville FC and 14th-placed side Donegal Celtic FC had both made complaints about the standard of refereeing in Northern Ireland in recent months, and the IFA responded to the concerns by bringing in officials from elsewhere in the United Kingdom to take charge of some matches, widening the pool of referees. However, a recent meeting attended by more than 60 managers, coaches, players, and referees – organised by the IFA in relation to its club licensing scheme – may prove to be even more important in calming the situation.
The seminar discussed matters relating to the application of the laws of the game, with key subjects including the role of the fourth official and the content and guidelines used to assess referees in the Irish Premier League. The bosses of Irish League clubs have recently formed a managers' forum and their chairman, Lisburn Distillery FC's Paul Kirk, commented: "Our aim to is build bridges so events like these are essential to improve relations with referees, and this seminar is the start of that journey."
David McVeigh, the IFA's club licensing and facilities manager, said that the evening was "a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and build on existing relationships for the benefit of the entire Irish Premier League" and all present seemed to benefit from the experience. Referees' Assessor Malcolm Moffatt said: "This was a very positive evening, it gave everyone the opportunity to express their point of view, showing how complex an assessment report is, and, importantly, everyone now understands that referees are very accountable."
One of the players present, Lisburn Distillery's experienced Paul Muir, admitted: "From a player's point of view this is a real eye-opener. We certainly did not realise the depth that this sort of report goes into." Referees' chairman David Malcolm hailed "an excellent turnout" and said the seminar was "very worthwhile", adding: "Referees would welcome this engagement on a more regular basis to help break down more barriers."
First of many
IFA referee development officer and former FIFA World Cup referee Alan Snoddy suggested that such repeat seminars would occur: "This event can only scratch the surface in helping managers and players obtain a better understanding of refereeing matters, but the evening was conducted in a very positive atmosphere and we look forward to organising similar events in the future."
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