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. The misconduct against referees may occur before, during, and after a match — including travel to and from a match. If any unlawful touching were to happen, then all people involved in the immediate assault may need to retain legal representation to help with this case, especially if it goes further with extreme physical and aggressive attacking. Depending on how far it goes, the need for top-rated personal injury lawyers may become serious, as physical harm is a grievous offense.

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 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 that 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 as they can give major injuries to the referee that may prove to be life-threatening. In case a referee suffers a serious injury that may further lead to legal proceedings– it might demand the need of a Medical Expert Witness, who can provide testimony for the injuries suffered by the Referee. Though everything is recorded on camera these days, only a medical expert can verify whether the assault has given the referee some serious wounds or not. Anyway, a player should refrain from such practices even if the game is not in their favor as winning and losing are just part of a game. If the referee ends up having serious injuries, then they might be able to sue the player for damages with the help of a personal injury law office in San Antonio or wherever the jurisdiction of the crime falls. Even if the case is settled out of court, these matters could have a major impact on the soccer player’s career, including a permanent ban from the game. This is the best-case scenario. Worst case scenario, the case goes to court and the player might be charged with assault and battery, with a huge fine and a prison sentence.

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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