Referees chief David Malcolm insists lessons will be learned from controversy

Referee Keith Kennedy
Referee Keith Kennedy

NIFL referees’ chief David Malcolm insists lessons will be learned after a player’s brother was allowed to officiate at a Premiership match at the weekend.

Gavin Hegarty acted as one of Arnold Hunter’s assistants for Coleraine’s home game with Ards - even though his brother Michael was captaining the Bannsiders.

Now officials in Northern Ireland have been told to declare any potential conflicts of interest to prevent any more controversy.

“We appoint 90 referees every week. There is no way I can tell you who their fathers, mothers and brothers are,” Malcolm told the BBC.

“The onus is always on the referee to declare it.

“Gavin, who was on the line for the Coleraine match, made his debut. It was an excellent debut and it is unfortunate it has been overshadowed.”

Malcolm added: “Nobody, in any shape or form, is questioning Gavin’s integrity, or saying Coleraine or his brother Michael, or even Ards at that matter, did anything wrong.

“We have been a bit naive. We must learn from that and make sure it does not happen again.”

Further controversy arose after Keith Kennedy was appointed referee for Linfield’s game with Warrenpoint Town at Milltown. It has emerged that Kennedy is a former season ticket holder at Linfield.

“Keith Kennedy was a season ticket holder at Linfield but since taking up refereeing has not been involved with that club.

“My understanding is that Keith has not been a Linfield supporter or season ticket holder for five or six years.”