Monday, June 23, 2008

Good Tournament, Bad Spectators

It was a long weekend.
I worked another premier level tournament this weekend. I've worked for the head assignor a number of times in the past, but not this particular tournament. The tournament has several locations and I was assigned to the main location at a local university. As is my practice, I arrived early, only to find that campus police were not allowing anyone to drive to the parking lot next to the fields. I had to walk about 1/4 of a mile with my bag, cooler and chair. This wasn't an ideal start to the weekend, but I could deal with it. For whatever reason, this assignor does not give you your field assignment until the morning of the tournament, so I waited around with the other referees. When we got our assignments, I discovered I was assigned to a satellite location in a local park, about 10 minutes drive from the university...and our game schedule started about 2 hours later than the other fields. If you are an assignor, please read this and take note. There were only 8 of us going to this park. It would have been nice to get an email telling me to go straight to the park. Gas is $4.00 a gallon and I could have stayed at home, out of the heat, for another 2 hours. I understand assignors are very busy and it's a hectic day, but a little courtesy goes a long way.
I ended up with only 4 games for the first day of the tournament. As I mentioned, I was sent to a satellite field with a shortened schedule. The guys I worked with seemed ok and we had a pretty good day. I had two middles for the day. Both of them were U-17 boys, so it was a satisfying day in that I felt challenged by the games.
It was a little trying because, being away from the main location, we had no support at all. That means we were on our own for food and water. If you are going to do tournaments, invest in a rolling cooler! They have a handle and two wheels and are very easy to move across grass fields. Fill the cooler with water bottles, sandwiches of your choice and bags of ice. In my opinion, it is a mistake to count on being able to get food and water at a tournament. Sometimes there is none available. Sometimes there aren't enough referees to ensure you will get time off. You must be prepared for these things.
When I arrived home and checked my email, I found the parking permit sent by the 3:00am that morning. I guess I have to start checking my email before I drive to tournaments.
Day 2
I arrived at the university even earlier on day 2 in anticipation of being sent to the satellite site again. Armed with my newly found parking permit, I was able to get much closer to the fields. I received my assignments. I was located at the university, but I was sent to a field away from the others, on the other side of the campus. Since my car was close this time, this wasn't much of a problem.
Arriving at the field, I noticed a few things. First, we were without any services. There was no food or water in close proximity to the field. Second, and worse, we had no field marshal assigned to our field. Third, there is a parking lot behind one of the goals that allows balls to roll forever.
Getting around the parking lot wasn't much of an issue. As the referee, you just need to ask the home team for 2 balls. Typically, spectators will chase the run-away balls for you. Not having food and water is not a problem either since you should always go to tournaments prepared for this situation. It happens all the time. Not having a field marshal proved to be an issue.
Our first and second game proved to be near-disasters. I can't put my finger on what happened, but we had all kinds of problems with spectators. By the end of the first game, we had called on the radio the tournament provided for us and asked for a field marshal to come to the field. The referee had asked a parent to leave the field area. The parent lingered in the parking lot, making the referee understandably nervous. We were disappointed to find that the field marshals were not quite as assertive as we would have liked, but the parent did eventually leave. I'm not going to say the first two games had the best officiating I've ever seen, but they were certainly called fairly and with pretty good skill. I don't understand what causes people to become unglued during youth soccer games. I don't understand what mechanism causes people to behave in a disrespectful and aggressive way like I saw during this game.
Things went well for the only middle I had on day 2 of the tournament. It was a U-15 boys game. I made it clear at the coin toss that we did not have a much of a tolerance for dissent (as things had been going badly in other games) and that my expectations is we would be spending our time playing soccer. It seemed to work. The players got the not-so-subtle message and played a great game.
Later that day, we had further issues during the game which I was off. I was sitting in my chair between the teams, about 20 feet behind the benches. Normally, I'd choose a place to "set up camp" much further from the team benches, but the layout of this field did not lend itself to this practice. There was a no-call situation that raised the temperature of one of the coaches. I could see he was questioning the assistant referee in a leading way, trying to get the assistant to agree with him. As he should, the assistant basically refused to answer the coach in any meaningful way. So the coach heads in my direction and starts asking me if a certain scenario is a foul or not. Now, I've been doing this long enough to realize that a coach will never describe a situation as it really happened and one should never give an opinion about a game situation because of the risk of undermining a colleague's authority. So, as pleasantly as I could, I pointed out to the coach that I cannot comment on a game in which I am not directly involved. This guy starts calling me all kinds of nasty names and storms off very angrily. I just don't get it what makes people do that. Had I been involved in this game in anyway, this guy would have been immediately dismissed. Arguably, he could have been dismissed anyway because his behavior certainly could be called irresponsible.
In doing just a little research, I've come to the conclusion that this is problem experienced in many parts of the country, across a variety of sports. Check out the "Citizenship Through Sports Alliance". They put together a National Report Card that is interesting reading. Here is just one article I found that talks about this problem. So what's the solution? What do you think? Send your comments and let us know.


Anonymous said...

I was once in a similar situation to you on day 2. resting between games, team side, between the teams. One of the coaches was saying 'effing referee' this and 'effing referee' that. (Except using the real word. ;-) His subs could hear him. Referee and bench-side AR did not hear what was going on, so I reported it to the tourney director and he had the coach removed. Yeah! Win for the good guys! :-)

Anonymous said...

I ran across your blog page quite by accident but am very happy to have done so. I read with real interest the aticle you linked to regarding the sportmanship of the spectators and players that resulted in a seasoned referee hanging up his whistle. I, too, hung up my whistle after 15 yrs of youth soccer officiating. Mainly due to the ever increasing lack of respect for our authority and the lack of courtesy teams and spectators show to the opposing side before, during and after the games.

When my son first started, no one, repeat, no one, would have even conceived of cursing at a youth game. Now, it seems the officials have to decide before the game how much they will let slide because otherwise the games will never start due to the prevelance of cursing in the youth vernacular today. And their parents see nothing wrong with this.

I remember a rare time when I was able to watch one of my son's games during a tournament and heard my own child curse, under his breadth but still loud eoungh for me to hear. I immediately told the coach and requested he pull my son off the field. When he started to refuse, I told him if he didn't, I would. My son never again cursed during a game.

The straw that broke my back came in a U10 Boys, where a 9yr old's idea of dissent was to run past me and call me an "effing" jerk because I didn't fall for his swan-dive and subsequent Oscar-winning performance of feigned pain. I lost it. Being a mom, I did what any self-respecting parent would do...I grabbed his arm and said "What did you call me???"....OMG, was I mortified at myself. I immediately called a stop and had a conference off-field with my AR's and the coaches to explain, as, I am sure you can guess, the spectators and coaches on both sides were going bananas. Long story short, (too that was my last game. Reported myself to the state USSF office and have not done a game since.

Anonymous said...

I posted the first comment as well. Anyway, stopped reffing (after about 700 matches) during a different tourney, when after a match a player told me (the AR) to eff myself (again using the real word). I reported to him to the referee and other AR, who laughed it off. Yeah, they laughed. It's bad enough taking the abuse, but to have *YOUR OWN TEAM* not only fail to support you, but basically crap all over you, well, that was just more than I could take. Five years ago and it still ticks me off ...

The Referee said...

I, too, have witnessed situations where the referee refused to send-off a player for a clear "abusive language" situation. This is a good reminder of the importance of backing each other up. If an AR tells me they were spoken to in an abusive way, there is no question what happens to that player.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous> I don't know how your league works, but in the main Columbus-area league (MOSSL) even an AR can submit a match report to the league (online). A year ago, I had a situation where I was supposed to do a U13 girls middle. My previous match on another field ran late and I go to the field right at the scheduled start time - where I found that a high-school aged kid had decided that he would do the middle instead. Well, long-story-short he was completely out of his depth. His foul recognition was horrible and had absolutely no match-management skills at all. I was the AR on the spectators' side and he was being abused like crazy. I attempted to calm the parents and was abused worse than at any time in 20 years as a referee. I really couldn't involve the center referee - since he had more than he could handle in the match itself. After the match, I gathered up the referee so there were no issues. And I had to inform the home coach of what was said and descriptions of who said it. I also informed him that I would have to report the fans' conduct to the league. Then when I got home, I filed the report online.

It's unfortunate that many referees, in an effort to be a "player's referee" allow far too much dissent and language, fail to enforce the 10 yards on free kicks, and let far too much physical play go. . .then these same referees are the ones who wonder why their matches always seem out of control and why they give so many cards.

I agree at the very young ages, there shouldn't be a whole lot of gray area regarding language. They have to learn. But when you get to more advanced/older players, language isn't as clear cut. In 2003, USSF put out a position paper on player language and misconduct. It can be found at -
And I've also blogged about my wrestling with this on high-level youth matches as well -

But these nuances of doing a middle aren't always learned quickly or easily.