Cumbria RFU hopes a stiff sentence will help curtail a growing trend of abuse to referees.

Silloth’s Jamie Baxter has been banned until the end of October for verbally abusing an official.

The Cumbria RFU disciplinary panel was told the referee concerned does not wish to continue officiating.

Brian Mitchelhill, chairman of the Cumbria Referees Society, confirmed that and admitted abuse is a major concern.

He said: “People are reluctant to take up the whistle and it is proving very difficult to find new referees.

“We operate with just over 20 but regular abuse to referees is seriously affecting our recruitment.”

The incident happened in a Cumbria League game in January at Silloth when the home side beat Egremont 17-15.

The panel heard that Baxter had been warned about questioning decisions until he was yellow-carded after 54 minutes.

The attitude continued and he was red-carded for his consistent bad conduct directed at the referee.

When shown the red card he swore and called the referee a cheat, continuing to chant “cheat, cheat” when he reached the dug-out.

Baxter pleaded guilty and declined to answer questions but did apologise to the committee.