It is hard to think of a lower, more despicable form of behaviour in amateur sport than the sideline abuse of referees or other match officials. And with enough awareness up and down our sports-mad nation of that particular blight; why are we still having problems such as this:
What derivative of NZ human are these crude and utterly contemptible morons? Probably a close relative of that delightful sub-species that cry like babies when they learn that the closing hour for bars in their city or town has been cut back by sixty minutes from 3am to 2am. Not happy because of one less shop window to kick in or one less cop to abuse, possibly? Or they could be similar in mentality to those who think that their child’s school teacher should be held responsible for any anti-social pattern of behaviour their little offspring displays in the classroom or playground.
Seems there is a growing trend in this country for people to just act however they wish and screw anyone who takes offence. I see it in cyclists who ride straight on through pedestrians at intersections, people who text or talk on their phones whilst driving on the motorway or in people who drive drunk and blame it all on the police when they are caught. It comes down to complete selfishness, arrogance and in having zero respect for others in society. Unfortunately these traits have also found their way onto our sports grounds in some spectators, and as shockingly evidenced in the article above, in players. We need to nip such rubbish in the bud once and for all, and fast.
For anyone identified as continuously verbally abusing a referee, be it player or spectator, issue them with a verbal and written warning that makes it abundantly clear that such behaviour is just not on. Should it happen a second time, whether it be months or even years later (and why not?), a life ban from setting foot on the ground where the offending took place. For a physical assault, a life ban, a very generous reparation paid to the victim and either community service or jail depending on the assault’s severity. Education on the issue of referee abuse does not appear to be working. Will it ever? Who knows, but we cannot wait around or hope forever. As is said, desperate times call for desperate measures.
If we are serious about eradicating these escalating incidents, the punishments need to be of an unconditional no-nonsense variety. Bullies do not bow to weakness and slaps on their wrist with wet bus tickets, they only cede to those who stand up to them and make them accountable as a catalyst for change.
Do any serious consequences for referee abuse seem to be having an effect in the Manawatu region though? Not going by the above article, and that is a huge concern. However if proper punishments and/or education on the issue are not the answer, then what is?
A lack of action around this whole problem will likely see an increase in the incidences of two teams of eager school or club players looking forward to one of the greatest feelings they will ever experience, running around on a sports field in some beautiful NZ country town or city somewhere on a Saturday morning or afternoon with their great mates having their back in the battle, only to find that they may not in fact even get to start because there isn’t anyone left to officiate that is prepared to suffer taunts and threats from the touchline.
I’ll tell you plainly that one of my best friends (a former international referee), gave one of his main reasons for handing in his whistle as being the increasing amount of invective he was having to turn a deaf ear to season upon season.
We need to respect our sports referees, touch judges, umpire and officials a lot more than we currently do. Otherwise they may go from being endangered to virtually extinct.
And I would urge the NZRU and other national sports bodies to seriously consider the introduction of a Referee’s Day every year as a way of acknowledging the invaluable and absolutely necessary contribution these people make to our sporting landscape.
The next time anybody out there feels like giving the ref a strong spray, think about what a dickhead you will no doubt sound like and perhaps most of all, consider the fact that your kids or younger brother or sister are following and committing to memory your every move, for better or worse.
Play fair, respect traditions and individuals and don’t abuse the poor old ref- it’s not the Kiwi way.
Comments very welcome- (Paul) firstname.lastname@example.org