15 January 2019

Will harsher penalties and a sin bin help curb referee abuse?

| Lachlan Roberts
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Capital Football will enforce harsher penalties and introduce a sin bin to help stop referee abuse. Photo: Supplied by Capital Football.

Capital Football has announced that it will look to install harsher penalties on players and coaches and will introduce a sin bin across all competitions to help stop the barrage of abuse hurled at referees.

Capital Football has released damning results of their referee review as the football governing body looks to implement a plan to curb referee abuse.

The number of referees has been decreasing year on year, with reports confirming that 45 per cent of referees aged between 18 and 30 had walked away from the sport in the past two years. The negative trend in referee registrations is diametrically opposed to the trend across the country which is seeing more people register to become match officials.

According to a referee review by Capital Football, abuse from spectators (21 per cent), abuse from players (19 per cent) and abuse from coaches and team officials (19 per cent) were the top three reasons referees walked away from the sport.

Capital Football said they also had an underrepresentation of females in refereeing, which referees say is due to abuse from spectators, players, coaches and officials (72 per cent) and an unwelcoming environment (26 per cent).

Referees said they have experienced physical violence, sexist remarks hurled their way and even received death threats during and after football matches across Canberra in past seasons, with 59 per cent of referees saying they had experienced an incident that made them feel unsafe once a season.

The majority of respondents to the survey indicated that severe sanctions for abuse would be a successful deterrent and create a safer environment, with Capital Football agreeing to review its sanctions for abuse towards referees.

Capital Football will also roll out 10-minute sin bins in all senior competitions including premier leagues, state leagues and masters leagues after a pilot last season effectively curbed the amount of dissent and abuse directed at referees in the now defunct Capital League.

During the trial last season, 19 people were sent to the sin bin – a penalty where players are given short stints off the field – in the first six rounds of the season which reduced to 11 in the last six rounds and only five dismissals issued across the finals series.

Over 70 per cent of referees said there was a reduction in the level of dissent from players during matches where sin-binning was implemented.

NPL Canberra Olympic coach Frank Cachia said the evidence from the pilot in Capital League last season was a positive but still had concerns about how sin-binning would be administered and how consistent the ruling would be.

“To be completely honest I don’t think I am going to be a fan of the sin-binning,” Cachia said. “I feel like it is just another thing for the referees to do and then they have to keep track of how long players have been binned for.

“But if that is the decision Capital Football has come to then we will work with it and I look forward to seeing how it will be carried out.”

Canberra Olympic men’s premier league side went through the 2018 season without receiving a red card and despite their stellar disciplinary record, Cachia believes respect for referees still needs to be encouraged in all clubs.

“I don’t think there is one player, coach or official in the game that wants to see a referee feel unsafe or unwelcome,” he said. “We all need to realise that we all have a role to play in that.”

Do you think harsher penalties and a sin bin will help curb referee abuse? Have your say below.

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Agree with sin bin but the referees(and administrators who encourage it) have to look at the currently favoured ‘let’s communicate’ style of refereeing. The reasoning behind this having to explain the decision to the offender every time you award a free kick or penalty is that you may be able to convince the offender that you are correct in your ruling and that he/she will accept your analysis and will happily play on without complaint and may not offend again. In the real world this ‘explanation’ is seen by a lot of players as an affirmation of their innocence because you as the referee had to explain yourself. Of course there are those who will take it a step further and demand justification for the call which becomes intimidatory. The referee’s role is to ensure that both teams play by the laws of the game. He or she sees an infraction and given the current interpretation of the law makes a decision. Barring the VAR or Assistant Referee input, they never change their mind. The decision is final the punishment is summary. Play on. You have a whistle, hand signals and cards to communicate to the players, coaches and fans. Any other conversation other than stating the nature of the offence is superfluous and invites authority undermining via debate. This is especially the case for younger referees and females having to ref games for the Under 10’s and above. Mimicking their elders they will take you on and demand justification for your decision. So stop trying to be the player’s friend and making the game an entertaining spectacle is not your job. Also call each foul as it happens from minute one of the game..don’t, as is the fashion, issue warning for foul play as it heightens the tension.

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