League of Ireland players could soon have a second career - as a referee.
The Professional Footballer' Association of Ireland (PFAI) hosted their first beginners course for players in Dublin with the aim of encouraging players to pick up the whistle. Players from top clubs including Sligo Rovers and Bohemians were in attendance and were joined by former league officials Pat Whelan and John Ward.
Sean O'Connor of St Patrick's Athletic said, "I think the reason why players are doing this is to get a better relationship with referees. There is also the added thing, at the end of the season when a player is out of contract, they can go and referee if you are qualified and you can earn some money."
Many Irish clubs can only offer employment for 42 weeks of the year so refereeing could enable players to add an extra income when the season comes to an end.
A total of 16 players participated in the course and each were given a copy of the FIFA Laws of the game. The players were put through their paces on the training ground and had to take a written test at the end of the course.
PFAI General Secretary, Stephen McGuinness said, "It's something that the players themselves have asked if it was possible for them to become a referee in the league when their playing career is over. If you have no referee and assistants, you have no game.
He added, "At the end of the course we hope that we have encouraged players to think about another way of staying in the game. Players usually stop playing in the 30's, referees can officiate until their mid/late-40s."
Decisions from referees are frequently a major discussion in the League of Ireland and there are calls overseas for video technology to be introduced immediately. Ahead of another weekend of LOI action the PFAI General Secretary concluded: "It will be interesting now to see how players react to decisions given for and against them as we go through the season."