Defining Soccer Referee Abuse and Assault, Where to Report It


Soccer referee abuse and assault are very serious crimes against the sport and they continue to happen to our members. Misconduct against referees may occur before, during, and after a match — including travel to and from a match.

It is critical that referees correctly identify and make a report of these incidents.

Referee Abuse

Referee abuse is a verbal statement or physical act not resulting in bodily contact. It implies or threatens physical harm to a referee or the referee’s property or equipment. Examples may include:

  • verbal and nonverbal communication which contains foul or abusive language and which implies or directly threatens physical harm;
  • spewing a beverage on or spitting at a referee or the referee’s personal property;
  • remarks such as: “I’ll get you after the game,” or: “You won’t get out of here in one piece.”

These examples qualify as an immediate ejection from a match along with a Referee Report.

Referee Assault

Referee assault is an intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee. US Soccer defines an “intentional act” as an act intended to bring about a result which will invade the interest of another in a way that is socially unacceptable. Unintended consequences of the act are irrelevant. Examples may include:

  • striking, kicking, choking, head butting, grabbing, or bodily running into a referee;
  • spitting on a referee with ostensible intent to do so;
  • kicking or throwing an object at an official that could inflict injury;
  • damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property (e.g., car, uniform, or equipment).

These examples qualify as an immediate ejection from a match along with a Referee Report.

Referee Report

If needed, and in addition to the US Soccer Referee Report, the US Soccer Supplemental Referee Report can be used for instances of referee assault, referee abuse, dismissal of team officials, sending-off offenses, serious injuries, game abandonment or other substantial occurrences. Some competitions may provide individualized game, misconduct and supplemental reports.

In addition to the US Soccer Federation Policy 531-9, officials should consider the following when submitting a US Soccer Supplemental Referee Report related to instances of referee assault or referee abuse:

  • Complete a US Soccer Referee Report to record the basic game data
  • Provide a clear, concise and factual account of what happened
  • Include all relevant information to identify the persons involved
  • Do not give opinions or recommendations
  • Confirm the details in the report with all other officials
  • File the report within 48 hours of the incident
  • Retain a copy of all reports for future reference
  • Multiple incidents may require the use of multiple supplemental reports

At a minimum, the US Soccer Supplemental Report related to referee assault or referee abuse should be sent to the following:

  1. State President with jurisdiction for the competition
  2. Competition authorities (e.g., local league, tournament director, cup coordinator, etc.)
    • Obtain contact information from your assignor or the competition website
  3. State Referee Administrator

Include a copy of the game report and team lineups.

After submitting reports related to misconduct, assault or abuse, an official should acknowledge all correspondences related to the report and advise any authorized panel of availability to attend a disciplinary hearing if requested. If requested to participate in a disciplinary hearing, either in person or by phone, an official should cooperate fully throughout the proceedings.

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