By Colm O’Connor

Ulster Rugby chiefs have fined Coleraine RFC £5,000 following ‘sustained, vile, sexist abuse’ towards a female rugby referee in March.

Gráinne Crabtree described feeling “shock, confusion and fear” following a ‘tirade of profanities and sexual remarks’ she endured from four supporters in a provincial championship game between Coleraine and Dromore in March.

A six-page document, extracts of which were published by BBC News Northern Ireland, described in vivid detail the disgusting comments from the unnamed men.

“I could hear men laughing at how funny they found themselves,” she wrote.

“I noticed that the crowd was splitting, which left four men standing on their own. As I approached, they jeered and told me I was a ‘fucking joke’.”

Her statement said the men told her to “take off your shorts so we get a better look at your arse”.

She claimed that the men shouted comments such as: “Yo, you slag, you’re a fucking disgrace, you slag.”

Crabtree was dismayed at the £2000 suspended fine that was handed down to the club in the immediate aftermath and the Ulster Society of Rugby Football Referees (USRFR) refused to officiate at any Coleraine home games in protest.

A second investigation was held in September when the Ulster Branch received the referee’s report with the club now been fined £5,000.

None of the men have been identified or disciplined.

A Coleraine RFC spokesperson said this week the club was “pleased” that the issue had now been resolved.

In a statement Coleraine RFC said it had “apologised to the referee for the abuse she was subjected to by spectators at the club”.

“A plan is now in place at the club to ensure that Coleraine remains a safe place for spectators, players and officials and we look forward to welcoming visiting teams, their supporters and of course our match officials,” it continued.

There are currently 12 women refereeing rugby matches in Ireland; the IRFU hope this will increase to 80 by 2023.

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