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Edm. Journal: Abuse sours some city soccer refs


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Article from today's Edmonton Journal


Abuse sours some city soccer refs

Stress, time-consuming demands of job result in 76-per-cent turnover rate every year

Mike Sadava

Journal Staff Writer


An explosive growth in the number of people playing soccer in a short season combined with abusive coaches and parents is creating a shortage of referees around Edmonton.

Every day, organized soccer games are being played withut a referee assigned to them, and the job is done by a coach who may be a qualified referee, or by a friend or parent.

For instance, on Sunday no refs were assigned to four of the 88 games scheduled by the Edmonton and District Minor Soccer Association, and some days can be worse. Referees are needed for about 1,000 community, club and adult soccer games in the Edmonton area every week of the short season, and in many cases two linesman are also required, depending on the level.

John Ashby, a longtime referee who is responsible for assigning referees to games in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain as well as Edmonton citywide games for minor soccer, said one of the biggest problems is keeping young referees.

The attrition rate cited by the Alberta Soccer Association is 76 per cent a year, which means a shortage especially of people with enough experience to officiate high-level club games or adult matches, he said.

Abuse from parents, other spectators and coaches drives some young refs away.

Abuse ranges from somebody protesting a call to physical contact, one incident of which resulted in an adult league player being charged with assault.

"What's worse - to be a 14-year-old being called a complete idiot by a parent, or an adult being pushed to the ground?" Ashby asked.

An adult official can ask an abusive parent to leave, he said, "but a young person has to put up with much more."

It's not just the abuse that is creating a shortage.

A lot of referees also play soccer, have part-time jbs and school, and the officiating commitment turns out to be one that is difficult to meet, Ashby said.

"No one has a life, right? There are a lot of referees who go every night."

Simon Gorsak, 16, has three years of refereeing under his belt, and he often gets called by desperate coaches at the last minute to officiate games.

He said he can understand why some people abandon referreing after a short time.

"I think a lot of people find it stressful - they don't like the responsibility of handling what is going on for the entire field," he said.

"A lot of parents think they can yell at me and nothing would happen."

But he has developed a bit of a thick skin, and has learned how to tell abusive spectators to button their lip, possibly at the risk of forfeiting the game if they continue their histrionics.

He figures the interpersonal skills will come in handy, and his pay ranges from $14 for an uner-eight game to $30 for club or under-16 games, which isn't bad for a part-time job.

"I worked at Panago for awhile and I'm sitting there making $6 an hour and I'm thinking I could be making $10 an hour more for running around and helping kids play soccer, than helping people get fat."


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Good article and very truthful reality. Young referees are well prepared in knowing the Laws of the game, but poorly prepared in actually refing a game. That includes their personal qualities, fitness, positioning, application of the laws and most important; discipline and control of the game. And it is not their fault. In most places once you get your license you are thrown into the lions and no one comes to help you out in the transition from the classroom to the field. We need to ad a practical side to the referee courses. The same way one cannot learn how to play soccer by simply reading books, one cannot be a good referee by simply knowing the rules. To make matters worse I find that districts, leagues, associations, etc. although they all condemn abuse of referees, little is done to severely sanction the abusers. So the cycle goes on an on.

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