herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

'F*** off. What would you know about football?' -- Dublin ref reveals abuse

AN FAI assistant referee has spoken out about her own horrific sexist abuse in the wake of the Sky Sports debacle.

As pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys face increased pressure following their comments about lineswoman Sian Massey, Dubliner Marie Ward has told of the abuse she received here.

Obscenities

Ms Ward, a qualified FAI offical, was repeatedly subjected to obscenities as she officiated at matches in the Dublin area.

The 39-year-old mum of two told the Herald of her disgust at being called a "w**re" who couldn't possibly know what she is doing because she is a woman.

Ms Ward, who graduated from the FAI Referee School of Excellence, was appalled but not surprised to find out that the Sky presenters were questioning Sian's knowledge of the offside rule.

"Incidents like that aren't regular, but there is a minority of small-minded people out there who have this kind of attitude," she told the Herald.

"For the first 15 minutes, they don't look at you as a credible referee, they look at you as a woman. It's terrible because it can rub off on the players."

The Tallaght woman officiates or assists in officiating games in the (men's) Leinster Senior League, United Churches League,the South Dublin Schoolboy League and Republic of Ireland senior women's internationals.

Fitness

She trains six days a week -- four days at the gym, two days with the men of the League of Ireland -- and is one of only two women in the country who have passed the men's League of Ireland physical fitness test.

Despite the respect she has gained through her achievements from her peers, she revealed that she was still sometimes discriminated against.

"I am a strong person because you need to have a hard neck in refereeing but some people find a weakness and pick at it," she said.

"The worst case I've had [in her five years of refereeing] was of a coach and one of his team members who were really abusive.

"The player was arguing with me about one of my decisions. He was quite insulting, but the coach was aggravating the situation.

"I could hear him in the distance saying that I was a 'lying b***h'. I had to give him a warning.

"And he said: 'F**k off. You're a f***ing b***h. You're a woman -- what would you know about football?' He was getting the footballers riled up so he had to be thrown out.

"Only two weeks after that, he spoke to people from the sideline trying to discredit me.

"You just have to switch off, do your best and make sure the situation doesn't spill out."

Intimidate

Marie admits that male and female referees are often on the receiving end of insults during particularly heated games.

However, the special needs assistant believes that she was targeted especially because of her gender.

"I know that this person has bullyish tactics with referees -- male or female -- but in this case, he was trying to intimidate me because I was a woman."

hnews@herald.ie

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