GAA referees in Donegal and around the country are set to have their expenses slashed following a crackdown by the Revenue Commissioners on their existing remuneration system.
The crackdown, which is believed has been agreed with Croke Park, will see referees’ expenses slashed and in some instances in Donegal, more than halved.
The move is seen as so extreme that it has prompted one leading referee in the county, who admitted he was not aware of the change until contacted by the Democrat, that it simply will not work.
He argued that it will force many of the county’s officials to give up refereeing all together because they simply will be out of pocket and will not able to afford to officiate.
“It simply is not going to work in a big county like Donegal. Do they not realise that referees in Donegal travel long distances to games and this system, with the price of petrol and the cost of running a car in this day and age, will not able to afford to officiate at games,” said the referee, who did not wish his name to be used.
In a document issued by Croke Park and seen by the Donegal Democrat, the new system will allow referees claim the standard GAA mileage rate of 50 cent a mile plus a subsistence allowance of €13.71, up to a maximum of €40 (including mileage and subsistence).
A referee may also claim for a meal for himself and his four umpires, on production of a receipt, but this would be instead of the subsistence allowance, and again the €40 maximum claim applies.
“If that new system is enforced referees will not be able to afford to referee and at a time when the county is struggling to recruit referees, it certainly will it make it more difficult to attract new referees.
“It won’t work and the Association will be the big loser. Nobody is refereeing for the money, but at the same time in the current economic climate very few can afford to be out of pocket and having to subsidise the GAA.”
Under the old system a Donegal referee could claim a flat fee of €25 or 50 cent a mile, depending on which was the greater, with no maximum claim. Under the old system their was no subsistence allowance.
This would see a referee who say, travels from Bundoran to Letterkenny, a round trip of 100 miles, receive €50. Under the new system that referee would be down €10, a cut of 20%. A more extreme example, but nevertheless could happen from time to time, a referee travelling from Malin to Kilcar, a journey of 185 miles, would have his expenses more than halved from the current €92.50 to €40, a whopping drop of €52.50.
However, the new system in some instances will see referees better off financially.
Those officials making round trips of between 30 and 80 miles will do better under the new system while those doing in excess of the 80 miles will lose out.
The crackdown is believed to be a move by the Revenue Commissioners outlawing the payment of fixed fees, as existed in Donegal.
Referees are not the only people in the GAA being hit by the move. Gatemen and women who collect at the turnstiles at county and other big games have also been affected and will no longer receive their fee of €20 per match which was paid towards a meal allowance.
Instead they will now treated to a meal by the county board. This change came into effect for the fist time after last Sunday’s Donegal-Laois game in Letterkenny.
Donegal GAA secretary Aodh Martin O’Fearraigh confirmed that he was aware of changes but also admitted that he had only learned of it over the weekend and was not fully up to speed with the detail of the new system.
However he did insist that Donegal would be adhering strictly to the guidelines laid down by Croke Park.
“We will be implementing the recommendations in full and will comply fully with the conditions laid down by Croke Park and the Revenue Commissioners,” said O’Fearraigh, who also went on to say that he did not think any referee was refereeing for the money and there was certainly no referee in Donegal making a fortune out of refereeing.
The new system will be operated by Donegal GAA for all games run by the board - championship quarter-finals, semi-finals and league play-off and finals, games run directly by the board.
It will also be the bench mark for ordinary league games where referees are paid by the club.
Meanwhile the clampdown seems to be only confined to GAA referees. Donegal League (soccer) administrator Terry Leydon, said the Donegal League had received no instructions on the matter and were operating the system that has been in place for a number of years.