Tackling unacceptable behaviour towards match officials
A new campaign aimed at tackling abusive behaviour towards match officials in football in Northern Ireland has been launched by the Irish Football Association.
‘Catch Yourself On’ also aims to boost referee retention and recruitment of match officials at all levels of the game.
The new measures to be introduced will include increased sanctions as well as educational interventions through close collaboration with the Irish FA Foundation.
Clubs will also be asked to nominate a new Match Official Liaison Officer (MOLO) who will act as a single point of contact for support and assistance to appointed match officials at games, with a pilot programme to be rolled out in 2024.
Catch Yourself On serves as a call to action and highlights that we all have an important and valuable role to play in promoting positive behaviour in football, and that incidents of abuse directed towards match officials will not be tolerated
‘Catch Yourself On’ will encourage players, coaches, club officials and supporters, as well as parents, to think about their behaviour towards referees to eradicate abuse and protect the safety and wellbeing of match officials.
Mike Riley, the Irish FA’s new Head of Refereeing (pictured, above), said: "A football match should be a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone, including players, fans and all match officials.
"When you listen to some of the stories and experiences from referees and officials, you hear about the physical and mental impact this abusive behaviour is having on them and their families.
"Catch Yourself On serves as a call to action and highlights that we all have an important and valuable role to play in promoting positive behaviour in football, and that incidents of abuse directed towards match officials will not be tolerated.
“By addressing this issue and making the game a more welcoming and inclusive environment for our match officials, we will attract and retain the very best referees, helping to ensure the game is officiated to the highest possible standards.”
The Irish FA believes ‘Catch Yourself On’ will kick off a much broader conversation around inappropriate and hostile behaviour at games and generate widespread awareness of the growing issue and its impact on match officials and the local game.
Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood said: “This important initiative reinforces our support for the wellbeing of our match officials.
“Yes, it is an awareness campaign, but it’s also an attempt to influence a more positive culture in football and eliminate unacceptable conduct.
“We are football’s governing body in Northern Ireland and, as such, this is bespoke to our footballing community, with whom I feel we can make a real difference."