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Ref cautioned over stance on swearing

PUBLISHED: 13:19 07 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

SOCCER: Experienced Ipswich referee Irvin Flaherty is lost for words after having his knuckles rapped by the Suffolk Football Association for his stance on foul and abusive language.

EXPERIENCED Ipswich referee Irvin Flaherty is lost for words after having his knuckles rapped by the Suffolk Football Association for his stance on foul and abusive language.

Flaherty sent off Long Melford player-manager Darren Pratt after he had scored an extra-time equaliser in a Suffolk Senior Cup match against Stowmarket Town Reserves.

Pratt had to sit and watch as his side scored a dramatic late goal to win 4-3. He appealed to the FA over his red card and after a personal hearing Flaherty received a letter from Brian Thompson, general secretary of the county's referees' committee.

"I have been strongly advised to cease talking to players before the start of games," said Flaherty, a referee for 20 years and a level 5 (formerly class 1) official since 1988.

"But I shall not change and will continue to speak to both squads in front of the dug-outs before kick-off. I find this a better policy than having a word with the two captains. They have more to think about after the toss-up than passing on my comments."

Flaherty says that his thoughts on foul and abusive language have been misunderstood. "The letter from Mr Thompson implied that I condone this and that this caused problems during the Long Melford v Stowmarket game," he said.

"I have never condoned foul or abusive language. Referees have to be practical and if every player who swears got sent off there would not be anybody left on the pitch to carry on.

"What I convey to players is that there is a difference between bad language directed at a referee or opponent and bad language born out of frustration.

"I will turn a deaf ear to the latter, but not the former. In practice, swearing on the field is never going to be stamped out so you have to be practical.

"Mr Pratt scored a goal and turned round and let out a volley of expletives. I was just ten feet away and deemed that he deserved to be sent off."

Flaherty, who says he centres on three things when giving his pre-match instructions – language, tackles and standing over the ball at free-kicks – also hit out at the double standards of the professional game.

He said: "Everybody in the country can see players swearing on television, but how often do they get punished? And if John Gregory had committed his verbal offence on Andy D'Urso against a referee on a park pitch he could have been banned for life.

"He received a touchline ban for three games!"

Despite his reprimand from Suffolk FA, Flaherty, who is also secretary of Ipswich Postals FC, is carrying on refereeing – and giving pre-match instructions to players.


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