The Question from... Thomas Stagliano: Earlier this week I relayed a story that was told to me by a business associate from another part of the country.
It was about how an adult Referee in that part of the country handled comments from spectators from one team.
I did Not support the method, but I thought I would relay it.
Several members directly or in support of each other, commented:
....The Referee should have sent the spectators packing....
Over the years I have read similar words on SOCREF-L.
I have been refereeing soccer since 1970.
Most of the refereeing is U14 and older, high school, college, adult amateur and some semi-pro.
I have played D-1 men's adult soccer after playing some college soccer.
I have coached some college soccer.
I have coached my sons through U19
I have Never seen a situation when the Referee "sent the spectators packing"
In my association with USSF soccer in either MA or CA, at meetings and in direct conversations with sister and brother referees
No One ever told me a story of spectators being sent packing at a game that they were at.
Scenario, reasonable quality league with good soccer skills Home team has a permit to use a field in a Public Park Second half of the game.
Spectator comments occur (comments only, No One coming onto the field) What is Your procedure for "sending the spectators packing"?
Is there a warning and then sent-packing?
And Please, if you have actually been at a game (amateur U14 or Older) where this has occurred please tell us what caused the situation?
How the referee crew handled it?
How the game finished?
Any aftermath with league or referee organization?
I am curious... 44 years at over 4,000 games (U14 and older) and I have never experienced this event.
Indeed, if you are "speculating" how you would do this (Public Park only) then speculate for U14, U19, and Open Adult amateur Male or Female players.
Thank you in advance.
Lee Jordan ~ The bastard in black...
I have done it. in a public park. I think it was u16 boys.
The visiting parents were rude and abusive. I warned them if it continued the
game would continue without them. not 2 minutes later a male parent made another
remark. I told him that the game would not continue until he left the area. I
then walked across the field to the other touch line and waited.
While everyone was waiting, and I told the coaches time was running, this parent
took his sweet time. no respect for the players. he finally stood up and threw
his chair. I just stood across the field and waited. no problem for me, I had
lots of time. the players wanted to play. I pointed at the man and said tell
him. when he is gone we can resume. he finally left and we completed the match
with no further problems.
Then there was the adult game with a Brazilian team. skillful but mouthy.
commenting and complaining on every decision. if it was in their favor they
wanted a card. if it wasn't in their favor they wanted it that way. if it was a
card they wanted a different color.
Constant comments... cautions for dissent didn't seem to have much effect, but I
did it anyway. one of the spectators was a player on the team who had been
injured in a previous game and was not a player in this game. his comments were
not welcome. he was warned. a couple of times. finally I told him he had to
leave. he moved to the running track. nope. out of the area. he finally went and
sat on the wall at the end of the park.
I remember that it comes down to either they leave or I do. and I'm being paid
to be there so I'm staying. and usually it's the team that they are supporting
that is losing so telling them that the time is running and nothing is happening
gets someone to make them go.
Oh, and both of those games finished much better. the players actually calmed
down a bit. and the chirping was noticeably less.
In almost every one of the leagues and tournaments I work, the
responsibility for dismissing spectators lies with the coaching staff of the
offending team. I don't take questions from spectators during games either. Had
one yesterday where a father of a player whose daughter was about to be yellow
carded took about three steps closer to the field to discuss the play with me. I
just looked his way and said "Do not get involved in this." That was it. If it
had gone further, I would have slowly walked across to the coaching staff and
asked to have him removed.
Gary Voshol ~ USSF 8,
I recall at least two instances, both in U12 recreational games (so somewhat
below the given parameters).
In one, a parent told his daughter to "take her down next time" or something to
that effect. I told the coach the game would not continue while the father
remained at the field. The man left. It turned out he actually was an assistant
coach, and would have been told to leave the team but he was moving out of the
Another case, I had a contentious relationship with the coach from the start of
the game, starting arguing over what size ball was to be used (I showed them the
rules summary). It went downhill from there. After one play, an opponent was
hurt and I called the opposite coach out. This coach also came out onto the
field to check her player, without permission. OK, it's U12, I let that slide.
But now the player had to go out. The player's mom came ranting and raving about
why her daughter had to go out of the game. I told her, because she had
assistance on the field for an injury. She kept going on, so I told the coach
the game would not continue while mom was there. Coach - remember the
contentious part - said she didn't have to control the sidelines, she was never
told that. I told her I was telling her now. One of the other moms convinced the
troublesome mom to go away, so the game went on. Five minutes later, I see the
mom on the sideline again. I again told the coach she had to leave or no game.
The coach wouldn't comply, so I abandoned the game.
In both cases, we were at public parks in different cities. In both cases league
rules backed me up.
A few war stories on this topic...
U14b tourney in the summer in So Cal. One team's parents were quite obnoxious;
they were getting to the Referee (not me, but a good friend and a good Referee; I
was the AR). He sent the entire set of spectators, except the coach, to the
parking lot. The game resumed without further incident. The coach was very
I've personally sent a few obnoxious spectators to the parking lot.
Yeah, I should have gone to the coach and asked - told- him to make the
miscreant go away. But I'm big and I don't take abuse gladly. It worked every
time with no repercussions. and the game continued.
One humorous incident was I was pointing to the main parking lot to my left
while telling the guy to leave. He replied, but my car is in the parking lot to
my right. So I said great, go there and pointed to my right. Many of the
spectators laughed at this interchange. Seems like they also were fed up with
this guys behavior.
One should always work through the coaches. Sometimes I don't follow my own
I do card tricks. You do that again and this card turns to red and you disappear...
- Phil Rogers
The direction to work with the coaches regarding the spectators is for a reason:
Most coaches now are paid, professional coaches. You don't earn what they make.
Let them do what is their obligation under most youth league rules of
competition. Using the "Ask, Tell, Dismiss" rubric that the USSF has released,
deal with it firmly and politely. Then when it is time to dismiss, DO IT!!!
Don't be afraid for whatever reason; don't let the coach tell you, "just let the
kids play." Sorry coach, but you and your spectators are the ones that won't let
the kids play. If the coach fails to deal with the spectators, then you dismiss
him, and if there are no other coaches left, guess what? The game is OVER. Have
I done this before? Yes, multiple times. And I'm not afraid to do it again, and
again, and again, until the desired behavior is accomplished. I have quite a
reputation around here, and word gets out. Maybe I don't get the games at the
higher levels because of this, but that's OK. I'm not in this for the money, or
fame, or prestige, or whatever; I'm in this to make the game better for the
kids, and when you have adults acting like jackasses, YOU need to take control
of it through the coach or else the problem is just going to get worse. Around
here the leagues will back you every time.
After the coach gets fined a few
times guess what?
They seem to magically figure out a way to keep them under
I was working as AR2 in the BU17 final of a local major tournament, retired FIFA
AR, now a National Emeritus, in the center. In about the 2nd minute of the
match, I raised my flag for offside on the home team. From behind me came what
had to have been the mildest of protests I've ever heard from a parent
associated with this club, "Aw, ref. He was on."
The Referee, who was an active-duty Marine not too long ago and looks like he's
still capable of ripping someone's arms off were he duly provoked, stalked over
to my touchline and said, "Sir, you are here to cheer for your team. You are
*not* here to give instruction to my officials."
The parent started to reply and the Referee cut him off, "Sir, your being here
is a privilege, one, may I remind you, that I can revoke."
I had no difficulties for the rest of the match.
From my basketball days I normally just ignore the spectators. They'd normally
have to come onto the field for me to engage them, which has not happened to me
yet. Got the same advice from a few very good senior mentors, to quote one -
almost no good comes from addressing spectators. I have gotten rid of two of
them in non NFHS scenarios that fit your criteria below.
One was a U16 boys match... The parent in question did not like the TI direction
and knocked the ball out of the opposing players hand as he attempted to take
the TI. It was far sideline in my coffin corner so I just told the guy
immediately he had to go. If I had not I think the parents would have unleashed
a can of whip-ass on him anyway. He initially would not leave so I decided I
would feed him to the wolves by telling the other parents that we'll start play
once he was gone and headed over to the benches to advise both coaches of the
situation. I had seen other Referees take that approach with parents and the
quickest way to get rid of them is incite their peers to do it for you. I had
not even gotten to the midline when the other parents were shooing the guy away.
No other problems in the match.
Second time was funny... Adult summer league so there are maybe 6 spectators total
and no coaches, field marshals, or athletic directors. Younger female AR tells
me at half time this guy has been shadowing her and in her ear. I personally had
not heard anything but if he is bothering my crew mate then I have to take some
action. I ask him to point him out and she does. I tell the AR just pop the flag
if he starts up again and we'll get rid of him.
Before we kick off for the 2nd half I go tell the guy to leave the AR alone.
10 minutes into the second half while we are waiting for the ball to be
retrieved for a goal kick the flag goes up. I go over and talk to the AR and she
confirms it was the guy again so I tell him to leave. He refuses and while we
are trying to sort that out with the captains one of the players yells over at
the guy "if you won't leave, then I will" and he asks me for permission to leave
the pitch. I grant it and he goes straight to the parking lot and gets in his
car and leaves. The guy leaves right then and the player returns with about 15
minutes left in the match and eventually subs in. During the post game hand
shakes he advises the crew that it was his Dad and apologizes for him being a bone
head. We could not help but laugh.
There are Referees around my area that I work with where I seldom do a match
with them where either a coach or spectator does not get kicked out. One of them
is a very very good Referee, he just has zero tolerance for that sort of thing
and his personality gets him through it. For me it seems that enough trouble
presents itself on the pitch without me having to go look for it in the stands.
South Eastern, VA
So, this was a case of calling it both ways?
One line I've used between Warn and Dismiss (if there is the appropriate
opportunity), is the tell the coach to "Pick a parking lot, because you're going
there if you don't calm down."
Remember grasshoppers, be careful about trying this - it has worked for me
(twice), but only under the right conditions and with the right personality
I do recall a couple of instances in MA where this has occurred. There were two
instances in the Coastal league, one a U-14 girls and a second that same season
(possibly inspired by the first) where all spectators were removed so the match
could be played.
Then there was a B16 or B18 match at U-Mass Amherst during the MTOC about 12
years ago which was initially abandoned due to unruly spectators and was then
played the following day out behind the stadium with no spectators.
This is being written to new Referees or those who do not know better.
I would strongly suggest that before getting emboldened by this thread, we all
take a step back and think about dismissing a group of people en masse from
their child's soccer game. IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA ! They are many and you are
Put pressure on the coaches to do this if it must be done. In fact, use the
coaches to dismiss one problem parent. You can tell the coaches that the game is
either terminated or is not going to be played unless they get rid of the group.
If they both deny it is `their parent' or they don't know who the parent is (in
the single offender case) tell them you will have to terminate the game. The
parent will quickly be identified by one of the coaches.
Don't get involved directly with spectators !
About 10 years ago now. I am the CR on a U15 tournament championship game at a
multi-field facility. The "home" team actually is a home team...from the club
that owns the facility and sponsored the tournament. The visiting team is made
up of players from a nearby community, and the schools are generally
arch-rivals, with the communities constantly competing with one-another to keep
players in their home school districts because both have "open enrollment" (a
condition in Ohio that lets a student choose any district that is adjacent to
his/her home district, for any reason).
The match starts, and it soon becomes clear the parents of the home team are
going to be a problem, This extends way beyond the usual comments about
officiating, bias of calls, foul selection, etc. There is constant baiting of
the other team, and some of their players are known by name to the parents.
Worse, there is constant encouragement to play rough, if not dirty...way beyond
the usual "don't let him push you" stuff you hear in lots of games. Towards the
end of the first half, I felt I had to warn them that they were crossing a line.
I reminded them that "we don't actually need spectators to play this game".
At the beginning of the second half, virtually in the first minute, one of the
fathers loudly yelled out to the home team to "take out Joel...don't let him be
the one to beat you". I could not specifically identify the father, nor be sure
he was from the home team supporters. But I had enough, and worried it was now
really going to get out of hand. I stopped the game, and ordered all the
spectators to clear the sidelines. I didn't tell them they had to leave the
facility, and there was no game on the adjacent field, but I told them they had
to get far enough away that we could no longer hear their comments, and that the
game would not continue until they complied.
They actually did it, and to my surprise, with minimum grumbling (guess the
first half warning had them prepared). I also suspect the loud mouth got some
flack from some of the others once they were away from the field. They were
actually in a place where they could still more or less see the game, but we
could only hear them if they loudly cheered, and none of their comments were
loud enough to be made out. We were able to finish the match. I don't think we
would have been able to continue had they been allowed to stay right on the
sidelines...I am pretty sure they would have eventually provoked something more
Of course, the home club wasn't happy...one of the teams was theirs, and it was
their field...although I think their team actually won. I have not been invited
back, but by the same token, have never asked the assignor for a game there
since. It's always been my policy not to go back to a place where I've had a
serious incident, as I feel you start with strikes against you in those cases.
Having said all this, I want to make it clear this was an extreme case. In our
state, we do not advise referees to deal with parents at all. We make it the
responsibility of coaches, and in most cases, that's the policy I would follow.
In the most general sense, I believe the LOTG and the policies of the USSF
authorize the Referee to deal with spectators at youth amateur games when those
spectators are seated on or near the touchlines, but I do not believe that is
the best policy most of the time. In particular, I don't think inexperienced
officials should ever involve themselves with parents...that's something only
old hands should attempt, and then very rarely.
Probably the worst I've ever seen was a game where I was, through a number of
irrelevant circumstances, assisting the assessor. Youth Regional's, U-16 boys
semi-final, defending national champions versus host state's team, so ALL the
parents are there. When I say it was hot, I mean HOT. 2 p.m. game in Las Vegas.
Estimated temperature on the field was 108 and absolutely no shade.
During the assessors' meetings, we had been told very specifically that we could
not do anything about the referees during the game, no matter how bad the
situation. Grumble, grumble, grumble. By the second half, it was clear that the
referee was in trouble physically. The game itself was as hot as U-16 boys' can
be, too. We ended regular time tied, 2-2, so there's two full 10 minute
overtimes required. By the start of overtime, the referee is starting to wander
almost randomly. It was very clear that the heat had him messed up. Non-local
team scores two goals in the first overtime period, but we have to play the full
two overtimes! Late in the second overtime, a local team player takes out his
frustration on an opponent who is down and he gets sent. Before the game is
restarted, there is a fight between the parents (multiple parents from each team
involved) which spills onto the field, past an astonished AR2.
The Referee, wisely, terminated the game. The non-local!
The team coach wants to finish the game! He's afraid of what the tournament
committee might do since the game was terminated, even though his team was not
going to be beaten. A couple of big name Referee Administrator types, the ones
who had told us not to get involved in these situations, show up and encourage
the Referee, who is still in a daze, not to restart the game.
I never did hear how the tournament committee dealt with the situation.
A final, thought...
And yet...So simple
~ but so effective!!!