The shortage of referees in both soccer and Gaelic football in this county has now got to the critical stage.
I did a piece on referees in the Inishowen Independent about a year ago and Tom McAree was at pains to point out that something needed to be done to entice new blood but we’re a year on and nothing has changed.
If you look at the Inishowen League for example, the likes of Gerard O’Kane and John Joe Lafferty won’t be able to go on forever.
They have been great servants to the league and to the sport but they need younger people coming in to take their place.
It’s no secret at this stage that the Inishowen League is struggling with the number of officials, to a point that one or two injuries could lead to games not being played.
It’s the same with local GAA and no matter what any of us say about referees, we all have our moments with them from time to time but without them, we have no game, it really is that simple.
So what can be done to get young people involved?
Somebody came up with an idea to me during the week and the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense.
Transition year students in the local schools use that year to go out and do courses and get work experience in different business places throughout Inishowen.
Would it not be an idea to get them all to do a referees course? I know this was something that may have been done years ago but if the young people are taught about the importance of the officials and how they could literally go in and save the future of the sport, it may be something they take an interest in.
At 16 or 17 years of age, there would be nothing stopping those youngsters going out and getting experience in U10 games.
From what I can gather, the money is fairly decent and if they are doing a few games a week, it could be a real good money-spinner for young people like that.
I’m not saying that by getting Transition year students to do the course that it’s a guarantee that we’ll get dozens of new refs but even if it means we get a couple, it would be a start and could go a long way to saving the games.
Even leaving that aside, I think clubs need to do a lot more here also. There is no point in standing back and complaining about the lack of officials if you’re not doing enough in your own club to make sure you’re getting people into courses and doing your bit to save the game for future generations.