People found to have committed physical assault against match officials could face up to three year bans from football-related activity, according to new rules approved by the Football Association of Ireland on Monday.
Under previous regulations, aggressive behaviour towards referees and other officials would result in a minimum one-game ban, while assault would be punished by a one-year ban.
However, following an EGM during which recommendations to deter such behaviour were discussed, the FAI signed off on a series of new rules to clamp down against abuse towards match officials.
From the 12th of February onwards, those found guilty of “deliberately striking a Match Official that involves head butting, repeated punching/kicking and/or assaults involving more than one player and/or official from the same team” face three-year bans from all soccer-related activity.
Additionally, players deemed to have used abusive language towards officials will receive a three-match ban, and 12-match suspensions will be handed out for “deliberately placing a hand on, brushing against or obstructing a Match Official.”
The move comes following the grissly assault by players and a fan from Mullingar United on referee Daniel Sweeney in November, an incident which ISRS President Paul O’Brien condemned as being unacceptable.
“We whole heartily condemn any violence in our beautiful game, we believe there is no place for violence, intimidation or abuse of any official,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the problem of assaults and abuse are on the increase and we firmly believe that the FAI need to now work with us in the ISRS to ensure we never see a repeat of what happened yesterday.”
Both O’Brien and Chairman of Referee’s Committee Gerard Perry praised the new punishments, with Perry saying that it was a very “serious matter”.
“There is clearly a common desire to stamp out any form aggressive behaviour towards match officials and that has been indicted by the rule being introduced by the Association,” Perry said.
Meanwhile, O’Brien said: “These new measures are an appropriate response to ongoing issues and will act as a deterrent to any potential assaults and abuse towards referees.”
Full list of new rules approved by the FAI can be seen here.