Refs chief: Players need to show respect in silent stadiums

The GAA’s National Referees Development Committee chairman Willie Barrett has said that there is an extra responsibility on players to be verbally responsible given that there are no crowds currently present at this year’s All-Ireland Championship games.

The last few weeks have provided a unique insight as those watching on TV have been able to hear what the players, and sidelines, have been saying with no crowd noise to drone it out – and Barrett said that counties need to be aware of that.

The Tipperary man said that referees had been reminded that their communication skills needed to be sharper as remarks could possibly be picked up by the TV cameras, and he has extended that advice to players.

On Saturday night, those cameras picked up Monaghan whistler Martin McNally reprimanding Dublin’s Niall Scully for shouting during a Westmeath kick-out, and it is understood that a number of players were spoken to throughout the game.

Rule 4.19 allows referees to stamp down on any player verbally interfering during a free kick/puck or sideline kick/puck, although there is no specific mention of kick-outs or puck-outs. General verbal abuse is deemed an aggressive foul.

“We would have said to them (referees) that it’s a different ball game now,” said Barrett. “Their communication skills must be dead on because everything is heard.

“We would have been saying up to now that if a free-kick is being taken, if someone runs at it or someone is shouting, to advance the ball. That would have happened.

“We particularly have had the situation in which people would have made a run sideways or front ways at a player kicking a scoreable free.”

Barrett said that the current situation, and the fact that in-game audio has become much more pronounced, is a chance for the issue of referee respect to take centre stage.

“If there is one thing that Covid has taught us is that the way we are doing things now, with respect and all that, is the way forward.

“We should always be respectful of our fellow opponents and officials.

“We have advised our officials to look out for anything like that happens and also to look out for anything coming from the sideline.

“We have had a couple of situations we had to deal with and had to take a stance and put people in the stand for a day.

“It’s easier for the referees to pick up now, and it’s something we don’t want in our game.”

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