Harassment: Part of a referee’s job description?


In professional soccer, it’s normal for referees to make mistakes. In post-game press conferences, it is common for coaches and players to be asked about how they believe the referee did. It seems that it’s the norm to blame the referee for the outcome of the game. That’s professional soccer.

However, the mistreat of referees is seen at the club level in local communities as well.

Maneet Sanghera is 19 years old and in her third year as a referee for BC Soccer.

“Their first instinct is always that you’re being bribed by the other team for some reason,” Sanghera says about rude parents and coaches that she has encountered.

This summer, Sanghera had her worst experience yet as a referee when she was refereeing summer league finals. She had three final games in a row that day. “This was a lot of stress emotionally and physically, especially on a hot day.”

The final game of the day was a U-12 boys Division One final, so it was expected that the game would be fast-paced and aggressive. But one of the two teams was being far too aggressive and had more calls go against them. Near the end of the game, the more aggressive team was losing 4-1, and Sanghera heard the coach telling his players to tackle the other team in ways that she knew could seriously injure a player.

“I spoke to him and told him that he was not allowed to instruct his players to do so, and he chose to direct his anger and frustration towards me. I gave him several warnings and told him he would be sent off the field if he didn’t stop. He dances along a very thin line for the remainder of the game, definitely testing my patience.”

Sanghera was doing her job by telling the coach that he stepped out line, and for that the coach and his players are rude and disrespectful to her. Even at the end of the game, when she was trying to pack up and leave, parents joined in harassing her.

So how does this harassment stop? Or is it even possible for it to completely stop? Perhaps not.

No matter how many times a referee coordinator files a complaint against a team for harassment, and no matter how many times the club warns the team to stop harassment, it will always be a part of a referee’s job.

Where the change needs to be made is in the training of referees.

Referees need to have confidence in their decision-making skills and they have to be taught to so. Sanghera agrees that referees have to be able to put their foot down sooner and let it be known that harassment is not tolerated, being confident enough to say enough is enough and stop the harassment. It is a part of their job to have the confidence to ask coaches, players and spectators to leave the field due to harassment.

There will always be controversy about referees’ decisions on the field, but as long as referees stand their ground and remain confident, the harassment can be stopped. At least until the next game.

Shea Thomson

Journalism student, and future Sports Broadcast Journalist, with a passion for the beautiful game of soccer.

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Reply December 8, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    This story reminded me when I volunteered to score keep volleyball in middle school and even I who only changed the score got harassed. I couldn’t handle it so I quit. I understand that people are competitive and it is part of the game but people need to remember that the referee (or score keeper) is only doing their job. Sports are supposed to be fun and it is a shame to me to see how people ruin that.

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