By Paul Kennedy
Everyone involved in football in Cayman needs to show more respect to referees before the beautiful game is destroyed.
That’s the stark warning from one of the country’s oldest teams, as officials prepare to go back on the pitch following a strike last week.
Industrial action was called for after a referee was allegedly assaulted by a coach in the final minutes of a cup match earlier this month.
The Cayman Islands Referees Association say it was the fifth time a match official has been assaulted this season.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said a 50-year-old man was arrested and released on police bail.
The Cayman Islands Football Association put out a statement last week stating that the coach has been suspended and security will be increased at games.
Now a member of the coaching staff at Sunset Football Club, a team formed in 1982, says it’s time to show officials more respect.
“Referees have a really tough job and no matter whether it’s the Cayman Premier League or The Champions League, mistakes do get made,” said Denis Rowe.
“Here in Cayman we’re not blessed with the kind of technology we are seeing more and more of across Europe, but as honest players and managers we have to accept the decisions made and get on with the game.
“Referees need to be respected by everyone involved in football, whether its players, managers or supporters.”
Rowe added that showing respect to referees should start a very early age. “The amount of incidents we’ve seen so far this season is completely unacceptable and I just hope when the games start again after the break the referees are treated right so everyone can enjoy the sport to the max,” he said.
“This needs to be at all levels, from grassroots games with young children enjoying the sport up to the Premier League.
“Decisions will always be contested, but to physically assault a referee is uncalled for, unacceptable and totally out of order.”
Earlier this year, the English Football Association announced plans to relaunch their “Respect” campaign after details emerged of a serious assault against an 18-year-old referee in Manchester.
Rowe believes a similar, dedicated campaign may be worth exploring here in Cayman.
He added: “You can’t play football without referees. It’s as simple as that. And unless we together as a country do something to put a stop to what’s going on, then who knows what will happen.”
The Cayman Islands Referees Association was contacted for comment, but at press time no response had been received.