It’s been established that referee abuse in the world’s top soccer leagues is a major problem that needs to be stopped. But it’s not just a problem at the top of the soccer world. It’s also an issue in youth leagues all across the country. It’s an issue that could lead to a large number of younger and newer referees not wanting to deal with it and just quitting.
Parental behavior at any youth sporting event has forever been an issue, but in recent years it’s become a very concerning one especially at soccer events. It’s perfectly acceptable for parents to disagree with whatever call the referees make because referees are human too. But what tends to happen is a few brief seconds of reasonable disagreement somehow morphs into an entire game long feud with the referee. In far too many instances the disagreement explodes into a variety of personal insults, profanity laced tirades, arguments with parents from the opposing team and worst of all, physical attacks upon the referee. It’s one thing to do any of this to an adult referee who is capable of defending themselves. It’s absolutely disgraceful for any parent to ever do this to a new and young referee.
At just about any tournament throughout the country, there are always going to be young referees at their first tournament. There are plenty of young referees out there doing it for some walking around money, but there are always a good number who take it seriously and want to do their job well. They show up on time and they’re excited, but incredibly nervous, and understandably so. They haven’t been refereeing for very long, they know maybe two or three of the 100 or so referees and the games are very challenging. Most of these young referees are still in high school and some of the newest ones aren’t even out of grade school. Unfortunately, too many of them decide to give it up because in their first weekend of refereeing they were called this or accused of that or anything under the sun that parents seem to assail referees with. And really, who can blame a 13 year old kid for not wanting to be insulted by adults for an entire weekend?
Facing the sad reality that parental behavior is probably not going to change any time soon, the best options for dealing with problem parents is just have them removed from the game. It falls on the referee crew, the coaches, the field marshals, complex security and even the local law enforcement to help keep order at these events. Parents need to learn that insulting and assaulting the referees will not be tolerated any longer. If it means that they are banned from the complex or have to go to jail, then so be it. They have nobody to blame but themselves.