Longford GAA referees have voted to go on strike, bringing to a head a major problem facing the GAA as they attempt to bring referees expenses into line with the Revenue's guidelines.
Last Sunday, Wexford referees threatened to withdraw their services until they got an undertaking that current expenses rates would be retained.
The Revenue guidelines suggest referees get match expenses of €13.71 per match, and mileage of 50c per mile.
But in Wexford a referee has been getting €50 for a senior game and €30 for an underage game.
Joe O Brien, the co-ordinator of GAA referees in Longford, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, said: “Longford is a very small county and most of the referees are centrally based.
“The new regulations are that Longford would have to pay €13.71 subsistence, plus 50c a mile. Now in a case of a lot of referees they wouldn’t even reach the €20 mark in Longford for it [refereeing a match].
“That would be half of what they were getting for the last couple of years.”
In Longford, the referees' fees come from a central fund, which is financed by all clubs in the county.
O’Brien continued: “How can it be resolved? It can only be resolved by people sitting around a table and ironing out this.
“I was at a meeting in Leinster last Wednesday night and we had a representative from Croke Park down and she said ‘This was effective from then', and everyone from last weekend had to carry out the function of the €13.71 plus mileage.
“I have a huge issue with that as it brings the integrity of the referee in question, and that is not a road I would like to see referees having to go down. I think they have high enough standing that they wouldn’t go down that road anyway.”
RTÉ’s Gaelic games correspondent Brian Carthy feels the problem will become a national issue.
He said: “Certainly [it will become national], because two proposals were put to the floor in Longford last night. One was for the referees in Longford to continue refereeing for the moment, but not to take the new proposed payments. It was felt that if the referees took the new fee it would compromise future negotiations.
“That particular proposal got very little support and I imagine the same would apply across the country.
“Whereas the second proposal to withdraw all services immediately was passed by an overwhelming majority. And the point is Longford is a small county, travel expenses would be minimal, and some referees would be out of pocket because of the high cost of petrol.
“It’s obviously coming from Revenue as they decide the tax implications. The GAA have had discussions with Revenue and the main proposals are that club referees will get €13.71, civil service rates, 50c a mile.
“Obviously Revenue are looking at all areas to ensure everyone is tax compliant. Yesterday referees in Wexford decided to withdraw their services because of the new match fee proposals. But following consultation with the county chairman it was decided to hold off for the moment, until they got clarification.
“But it would need to be clarified. I’m sure the chairman in any county, let alone in Wexford, they cannot decide that previous arrangements don’t apply now, if there’s a directive from Revenue through Croke Park.
“Then the other situations, if there’s payments to managers. If they’re regulated, clearly there’s going to be tax implications there.
“Revenue is looking closely at GAA to ensure that everything is above board. No under the counter payments, particularly to managers and all of that.”