The on-going debate about referees expenses took a new twist when referees in Longford opted to withdraw their services, a move which would mean no fixtures can take place in the county, unless the dispute is quickly resolved.
You will recall that SportsNewsIreland reported last week that Donegal GAA had been told that all payments to referees will be monitored by the by the Revenue Commissioners.
It followed meetings between the GAA and the inland Revenue as a result of which referees expenses were subject to reductions throughout the country, (depending on distances travelled) a move that has annoyed many referees throughout the GAA family..
On Sunday Wexford referees had hinted that they would most likely withdraw their services unless the situation was revisited. In Wexford under the current system referees receive a €50 fee for a senior game and €30 for an underage fixture.
The proposed new structure, it is understood would mean a fee of €13.71 per match, with a mileage allowance of 50 cent per mile, so the vast majority if not all would be worse off.
Last night following an annual referees meeting in Longford, the County Board put the new proposals to referees and the outcome, as explained by the County’s Referees Co-Ordinator Joe O’Brien to Shannonside FM Sport was that
“Following the discussion the referees took a vote and they voted to withdraw from refereeing until the situation became clearer and until they got clarification.”
It means that club fixtures in Longford are now at a standstill, until a solution to this stand-off can be found.
“As far as I am concerned they have withdrawn their services, which means as of last night there is no one available to referee,” explained O’Brien.
O’Brien added that he would not be surprised if other counties had similar discussions :
“The feeling at the meeting last night was one of great anger at the way there were being treated.
“Longford referees were getting €40 per senior game and that covered everything mileage, petrol and wear and tear of the car.
“The ruling from (Revenue through) Croke Park is €13.71, plus their mileage of 50 cent a mile.
“Because Longford is so small and most of the referees are centrally based, you would be talking about the vast majority of referees getting half of what they were getting last year.”
He added: “The referees have deep sympathy with the Longford County Board. This isn’t an issue with Longford County Board, but with Croke Park.
O’Brien later spoke to told RTE Radio adding :
“How can it be resolved? It can only be resolved by people sitting around a table and ironing out this.
“I was at a meeting in Leinster last Wednesday night and we had a representative from Croke Park down and she said ‘This was effective from then’, and everyone from last weekend had to carry out the function of the €13.71 plus mileage.
“I have a huge issue with that as it brings the integrity of the referee in question, and that is not a road I would like to see referees having to go down. I think they have high enough standing that they wouldn’t go down that road anyway.”
In a brief statement late this evening the GAA said : “The GAA can confirm that further talks will take place with Revenue on the procedures for the taxation, if any, of referee match payments. In the meantime, the GAA’s existing arrangements for payments to referees will apply”
Whether that statements satisfied the referees in Longford or in other counties remains to be seen. SportsNewsIreland will of course update you on the situation as it develops.