Referees’ chief highlights mental health fears after Crues penalty ‘human error’
Northern Ireland Referees’ Association chairman Paul Larkin has called for those within the Irish League to share the same empathy as Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter in the aftermath of Tuesday’s penalty mistake.
The Crues lost out to Cliftonville in the European play-off semi-final after a penalty shoot-out in which Michael Ruddy’s decisive spot-kick was ruled as a miss but confirmed having crossed the line via television footage.
Northern Ireland Football League officials have plans to proceed as normal with Saturday’s final between Cliftonville and Larne, in which the winner secures qualification for the Europa Conference League and a minimum financial reward of over £200,000.
Baxter accepted private apologies by the match officials in the aftermath of the incident - a reaction Larkin has described as both ‘professional’ and ‘helping to diffuse the situation’ but in stark contrast to the social media response.
Last month’s Irish Cup semi-final featured a controversial penalty shoot-out defeat for Crusaders when goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey was sent off for repeatedly coming off his line.
“I have every sympathy for Stephen and everyone connected to Crusaders,” said Larkin. “I must thank Stephen for his professional interview and how he dealt with everything in accepting the apologies and helping to diffuse the situation.
“A mistake was made and no-one is looking to make excuses, our match officials accept the responsibility and are selected for these high-profile fixtures on merit and past performance levels.
“Personally, I feel there was probably so much focus on the goalkeeper’s footing given the Irish Cup situation and that maybe played a part, on top of the mental fatigue of a such an important split-second decision coming at the end of normal and extra-time and a season of multiple games each week on top of a day job.
“There are not excuses but factors I think contributed to what was human error.
“The match officials have the full support of the Northern Ireland Referees’ Association and we would urge people to remember that those involved are people who love the game.
“To see the social media reaction was pretty alarming in a time when mental health concerns are so prominent...it was especially disturbing to read critical comments from those within the game who I’d expect to be more sympathetic towards mistakes.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world.
But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.