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Facebook Page Aims to Make Examples of People Who Abuse Soccer Referees

Special editorial by Bob Hoenig.

New Jersey Youth Soccer reminds parents and coaches that physical abuse against referees can lead to serious consequences, now including the possibility of being seen on a Facebook page started by a referee.

This behavior includes fighting with game officials, kicking or throwing objects (including the game ball) at them, or being overly verbally abusive.

A recent article in the New York Times tells the story of Oklahoma youth soccer referee Brian Barlow, who has started a Facebook page to call out spectators who abuse referees. He's even offering a cash bounty for videos of spectators behaving badly, which he posts for all to see.

Parents and coaches are reminded that there are ways to dispute a referee's call without resorting to "behaving badly." Parents may contact their league's board of directors and ask what the procedure is for complaining about a referee's performance. Coaches should talk with their league's games commissioner about ways to protest a call. In most cases, officials' calls are final.

Many leagues have rules to protect referees, especially youth refs who are just starting out including being escorted to the parking lot, being assessed a fine, or worse yet being expulsion from the club.

Additionally, many states have laws dealing with referee assault that require court appearances, fines or even jail time.

Statistics from the National Association of Sports Officials indicate that 7 in 10 youth soccer referees will quit within 3 years. Verbal abuse, and stories of out of control spectators and coaches, are contributing factors here. State referee associations say recruiting new referees to replace them is becoming harder.