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Stop the abuse! Time to change the culture of football

By Lachlan Roberts 26 August 2018 21

The blame game: Abuse on the field is taking its toll on referees, and it’s time it stops.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have heard of the refereeing “crisis” that has the Canberra football scene reeling.

There are reports that referees have suffered physical violence, received death threats, and have had sexist remarks hurled their way during and after football matches across Canberra. All of this came to light after Capital Football chief Phil Brown told ABC Grandstand that over the last two years, 45 per cent of referees aged between 18 and 30 had walked away from the sport.

“It is a real challenge and problem for us. One of the big problems that we face is the environment they encounter at games,” Brown said.

“Over the last two to three weeks in particular, there has been a bit of a spike in verbal abuse at referees that we are taking a firm stance on. It is something we definitely need to work on.”

Some of the reports of violence and abuse that referees are encountering across Canberra is jaw-dropping and deeply concerning – it is also evident to everyone involved that something needs to change.

To be honest, this article is being written by someone who, only a couple of seasons ago, was shown a red card for telling a referee to “F off”, which is something that I am not proud of. But it might show how deep the issue runs into our sporting culture.

I know first hand that it is easy to have a little white line fever and to be desperate for a decision to go your way, but as coaches and players, we have to control ourselves and let the referees do their job to the best of their ability.

When Belconnen United coach Antoni Jagarinec faced media on Tuesday morning, he spoke about the state of abuse against referees and was convinced the current culture was unacceptable.

“We are all passionate and we all want things to go our way,” Jagarinec said. “There is a big emphasis on not abusing referees and showing them respect and I am 100 per cent for that.

“When a ball goes out and everyone wants it to be their ball, the referee is going to make 50 per cent of the people unhappy every time.

“I do not condone abuse towards match officials and there is no place for that in our game but unfortunately it does happen and it needs to be educated.”

And that is the key to the whole culture change that is desperately needed in the Canberra footballing scene – education.

It comes down to individual clubs, teams and players pulling each other aside and letting each other know that it is not the end of the world when the throw-in decision goes against them, that it is all going to be OK when a referee waves away a penalty appeal.

Referees aren’t in the middle of the pitch to cause trouble. They are just trying to do a difficult job to the best of their ability.

As Canberra United Academy coach Ryan Grogan said earlier this week, it is about educating everyone from the grassroots up.

“Inside our academy, we educate the parents and the players and our technical staff that decisions are decisions,” Grogan said. “It comes down to educating players, coaches, parents in controlling their emotions and focusing those emotions to the better aspects of the game, supporting the players, supporting the coaches and getting behind the referees.”

It’s time to change the culture, one game at a time.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think education is the key to changing the culture of abuse in Football? Comment below. 

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21 Responses to
Stop the abuse! Time to change the culture of football
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Andrew Wadey 7:58 pm 27 Aug 18

Suspension. It's not acceptable behaviour. If you can't respect the referees, you shouldn't be playing the game until you can cool off and get your emotions under control.

Margaret Freemantle 9:08 pm 26 Aug 18

Typical soccer behaviour

waggamick 8:32 pm 26 Aug 18

No..education is NOT the answer. Every time we encounter a social ill education is thrown up as the panacea. Everyone knows what the problem is. Suggesting education is needed is creating an excuse for bad behaviour. My letter to Mr. Brown in July 2016 after watching outrageous and menacing behaviour towards a referee in a Capital League NPL First Grade game was met with a plea for the status quo. The gist of my letter was that Capital Football should have a no dissent policy with sin binning or exclusion as the punishments. At the same time I questioned the refereeing fashion of the day of explaining every decision to all and sundry after every whistle. The inference is that if you explain every decision then you will get a smoother game and a better relationship with the players. Patently that doesn’t work. Players and coaches aren’t stupid. By the time they are 15 or 16 they know all the rules and will play them to the limit. Every time they demand to know “What was that for?” they are in fact undermining the authority of the referee by openly questioning his/her judgement. Often, at the same time there is an air of intimidation in the hope that they might influence further decisions. There is no need for a referee to communicate verbally with players at all. They have the whistle, hand signals and cards to do the talking for them. Okay they can identify the culprit and early on in a game may give warnings to avoid using cards…which I don’t like as a foul is a foul and all the ref is doing is creating a grey area and is open to accusations of inconsistency. The referee should be a silent neutral officiator not a rule negotiator.

Deb Meuronen 3:57 pm 26 Aug 18

It starts with the coaches. They set the tone for their teams, the players and their supporters.

Kimberly Lennard 1:59 pm 26 Aug 18

Make the abusers do the referee course and become a ref or be banned from the game.

Lara Purdy 11:56 am 26 Aug 18

My 15 year old will be walking away from refereeing soccer at the end of the season due to the abuse - and that’s for refereeing matches of kids aged 15 and under! The sport is losing generations worth of referees! Such a shame. The clubs must be more proactive - give yellow and red cards to abusers on and off the field or stop games mid-game or suspend teams from playing when players or spectators hurl abuse...

    John Andriunas 6:05 pm 26 Aug 18

    Hi Lara, my 14 year old also refs and has had a good season. He only refs at our home ground and the club is very proactive about players and spectators behaviour towards refs. Every club should work harder on supporting refs... no ref, no game.

Gabriel Spacca 11:15 am 26 Aug 18

Abuse the ref and get a yellow card. Do it again and get a red. Hurt the referee and get suspended for the rest of the season, deduct points from the club and fine them. Keep doing it and the point deduction and fines increase.

It’ll take a while, but if done consistently then the players and clubs will eventually get the message.

Capital Retro 11:12 am 26 Aug 18

The referees in the local comps. (when they actually turn up) are all paid. The teams supply unpaid linesmen who from my experience are impartial. They hand out yellow and red cards when players abuse them and there are some serial abusers in some teams who should be banned. If a referee is inconsistent in his/her reason for handing out a yellow/red card he/she can expect to be called out by spectators. This is not abuse.

Most games have no spectators anyhow.

Jane Skillicorn 10:31 am 26 Aug 18

This is NOT FOOTBALL.... this is NOT SOCCER! All you ref abusers GET OFF THE PARK and dcb!!! You are not wanted, and you're obviously NOT good enough for the round ball game. Back to the sandpit bully babies, or better still, go back to bed and keep sucking your dummy away from the best game ever.

Trace Hawker 10:28 am 26 Aug 18

Thing is it happens in all codes. 🤬🤬

Mike Long 10:10 am 26 Aug 18

Name and shame, these louts are what makes the game unpleasant and even gives some sports a bad name

Archie Mac 8:26 am 26 Aug 18

I watched some of the WC - the players disrespect for officials was disgraceful

Try touching an official in AFL/NRL and see what happens

Deb Mccarthy 8:11 am 26 Aug 18

Stop letting players get away with a slap on the wrist...Hold each and every player accountable regardless! If they get 1/2/3 weeks for the offence, do not suspend any of the term

    Mike Long 10:14 am 26 Aug 18

    I thought this was about the public abusing the officials, players misconduct is answerable to the games board, not to the lines people or the umpire's and certainly not the spectators at the game.

Annie Mills 8:10 am 26 Aug 18

I would either let the refs start the game then walk off the field or first abuser gets given the whistle and told to ref the game themselves

Hans Dimpel 8:07 am 26 Aug 18

abusing a referee doesn't make you "passionate".

Sue Elliott 7:38 am 26 Aug 18

No refs...No football.

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