Referees have been attacked on the field and threatened with stabbing, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

Representatives from the FAI, GAA, IRFU and the Irish Soccer Referees Society were all before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, to discuss the level of abuse directed at referees.

Sean Slattery of the Irish Soccer Referees Society told Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan that he has seen the full spectrum of abuse directed at referees during games.

This has included referees being attacked during games, physically hit or threats that "we'll get you in the car park, we know where you live, we'll see you".

He told TDs and senators that here have been three cases of assault in the last two months in Dublin. In each case the player was suspended for 12 months.

Sean Slattery felt that cases are often not reported to gardaí due to fear of recrimination.

"One of the loneliest feelings you'll have is abandoning a game of any type and then you're driving home, the long drive, thinking about everything," he said.

Two-thirds of referees quit within two years due to the level of abuse they receive, the FAI told the committee.

Gerard Perry, chair of the Football Association of Ireland's Referees Committee, said that retention of referees is an issue and "referee abuse" is the main reason for giving up their roles.

The FAI revealed that there have been 34 cases of abuse of match officials brought before its Disciplinary Control Unit since 2019.

Of these cases, 22 resulted in long-term suspensions ranging from 12-24 months.

The association's referee numbers fell from 1,400 to 1,200 between 2015 and 2020, but this has since increased to 1,430 referees.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the GAA,Tom Ryan told Deputy Alan Dillon that there would have been around 1,000 inter-county games over the past year. During those games 104 players were sent off, three for abuse.

Those three cases resulted in suspensions. In addition to that there was one case involving a team official. The Director General admitted however, that he believed there was an "under-reporting of abuse".

He wasn't sure whether this was down to culture, a "tolerance of individuals" or a lack of trust in the GAA to pursue those cases.

Senator Malcolm Byrne asked if social media companies were doing enough to combat online abuse. Dudley Philips of the IRFU felt that the ability of people to remain anonymous online was contributing to the rising levels of online abuse.

This followed comments from the GAA, who told the committee that there is a pervading climate among those who watch and report on games, and more significantly anonymous commentators, to persistently pass judgement, which is often unfair and is based on very little actual knowledge of the rules of the game.

Tom Ryan told politicians that this sometimes transfers onto the field of play.

All organisations agreed today that there is room for improvement.