The Technical Area, Referee Abuse and "Sideline Behavior"
By Jim Lakehomer, SYRA
In previous issues of the Referee Corner (November 2008 and March 2009) the issues of sideline behavior and referee respect/abuse were discussed. The approach to this issue by the F.A., UEFA and U.S. Soccer were also discussed. Since then, however, the problem has only become more apparent!
As a result, OYSA has implemented a new Referee Assault Policy.
In the past six months, there have been four confirmed incidents of referee assault, including one by an Oregon player at Far West Regionals. While none of these incidents resulted in serious injury, the fact that they represent a spike in unacceptable behavior is disturbing.
On top of that, in the first week of OYSA Fall League there was an incident where parents were yelling highly inappropriate language at the referee and, after the game, confronted him with threatening statements. In addition, a coach on one team left the technical area to harass the AR1; all of these are inappropriate behavior by adults who are supposedly role models for the players and future players of this game.
Fortunately (for the teams) and unfortunately for addressing the problem, the referees did not use the tools available to help control these problems. In dealing with the technical area, referees are expected to follow the USSF guideline of "ask, tell, remove" for coaches and bench personnel. These are recommended steps and, on occasion, a referee may go from ask to remove, or directly to remove. This may be the only way in which coaches, teams and clubs will get the message.
Clubs and teams are an important component in helping control "sideline behavior." When it rises to the level of verbal abuse and inappropriate language/threats, referees have been instructed to stop the game and request that the coach deal with the offending spectator(s). Once this is accomplished, the game will resume. Failure by the coach/team personnel to do so, or escalation of the problem, may result in a match being abandoned by the referee crew.
This will be an unfortunate consequence on the players for the behavior of supposedly responsible adults. Avoiding this is a collaborative effort involving all parents and team/club personnel. Not doing so compromises the goals of the clubs, OYSA and the referees.
OYSA wants to work with clubs in a positive manner. The ORC and OYSA have an ongoing referee education, training and mentoring program that is continually working to improve referee performance. Positively addressing this problem is a collaborative effort; let's work together as a soccer community to improve this for the good of the players and the good of the game.