Former Drogheda United defender Graham Gartland has called for an improvement in the standards of refereeing in the League of Ireland.

Recent incidents in Premier Division games have shone a spotlight on the decision-making of officials in the league with Drogheda manager Tim Clancy and Waterford boss Marc Bircham questioning key moments in matches.

Clancy said that he was "sick of it" and has considered walking away from the league after picking up another red card during his side's scoreless draw with Sligo Rovers.

And Blues boss Bircham was very vocal following his side’s defeat to Shamrock Rovers where a key hand-ball decision led to a goal for the Hoops.

"From the games I’ve watched, I think the standard of refereeing is really poor," said Gartland, speaking on this week’s RTE Soccer Podcast.

"I think it comes down to an inconsistency from one week to the next, and the refs become so well-known to players and vice versa that they can hold things against players when they are making decisions.

"I was at the game on Friday and the decision that Marc Bircham was talking about that led to the goal, I was flabbergasted by it. And even though I was working for Rovers TV, I said I don’t think that is a handball and I don’t think it is a yellow card.

"I feel that when players are having a go at referee for decisions, the referee either buckles and gives a decision or holds it against them and gives it against them.

"Now I would never say that a ref has come to a game thinking I’m going to go against a certain team. I think if some teams start moaning and getting into a ref, and that happens as there is such a familiarity with the refs.

"[But] I think they need to separate that from it and just call it as they see it and give free-kicks. I think they lack a bit of separation from it and get too emotionally involved in the game. I think they need to just step back and make decisions."

Gartland believes that a better line of communication between the officials and the clubs will lead to a better standard of refereeing. And the former St Johnstone player believes that the League of Ireland could learn from the Scottish league in such circumstances.

"Referees in Scotland showed us a video to explain how they make their decisions, what’s a red card, a yellow card, speed of the tackle etc, so that players cannot complain when it happens in a match.

"I think how you improve it is that the referees go and see the teams and explain 'this is what is a yellow or red card’. They are going to get it wrong, they are human, but this is what we’re looking for."

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