Two experienced South Australian referees want to see better player and parent behaviour at local soccer games in the wake of a serious assault on an match official in Sydney last month.
- Referees want parents and clubs to improve sideline behaviour
- Games in South Australia have been cancelled in recent weeks due to a lack of referees
- Players can be banned for six months for assaulting a match official
Chris Young retired from refereeing two years ago and said his decision was partly due to player and crowd behaviour.
“I was starting to react to the idiots having a go at me,” he said.
Mr Young said when he first started refereeing 30 years ago incidents of extreme aggression or abuse were rare.
“You would get the odd idiot have a go at you,” he said, “but as the years went on it got worse”.
“I’ve been hit a couple of times and threatened many, many, many times.”
“Each year I go on, even just watching it, it’s getting worse. There’s just no respect from the sidelines towards the referees whether good, bad, or indifferent, and without them you haven’t got a game.”
Mr Young said the clubs need to look at the behaviour of their coaches and parents watching from the sidelines, and tell them not to belittle referees.
“I’ve seen coaches have a go at junior referees to the point where I’ve actually had to go out there and assist the referee – a young 15-year-old lad who’s just in tears because he’s been belittled by an adult,” he said.
“That’s just unacceptable.”
Kevin Barth has refereed matches across the Fleurieu and Adelaide for 12 years but recently took a break after being assaulted while officiating at a junior match.
Mr Barth said two parents came onto the pitch while an injured player was being attended to and was assaulted from behind.
“Being a referee was my way of staying involved in the sport,” he said.
“Obviously I never expected to be assaulted.”
Mr Barth said at the time he thought his break would be permanent, but his love of the game has brought him back.
He said everyone involved in soccer at grassroots level was aware of how difficult it is to find people willing to officiate matches, and the abuse from parents and coaches takes a toll on young referees.
“It can be quite intimidating,” he said.
“You’re coming across people you’ve probably never met in your life and you’re just becoming a target for them to vent their anger.
“Everybody’s struggling at the moment, we know what the world’s like at the moment.
“Is that an excuse to go to a local football game or a school football game and just let all that anger out on a referee? I don’t think so.”
Football South Australia (FSA) have been contacted for comment.
In a statement released on May 11 they acknowledged there is a shortage of referees, but said it was linked to the growth in its competitions.
The statement also said the FSA had a “strong focus on new referees to ensure they are supported, mentored, and coached to provide a supportive environment”.
Under current FSA guidelines players who assault a match official can be banned for six months.