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Fundamental Soccer Blog

Dealing with Coaches and Spectators

As referees we are not always prepared to deal with coaches and spectators who become involved in the match taking place and are often not well informed about the game of soccer.

In the younger age groups, the players are just learning the game and more often than not coaches, parents and especially young officials are just beginning to learn and understand what this sport is about.

One skill all successful referees have in their tool box is the ability to deal with and manage people.

Coaches may become disruptive if and when the team is not performing to their expectations. They have spent countless hours preparing them for the game and things are not going as planned. Winning or losing the match becomes a reflection of the coach’s ability and worth. Coaches’ egos are related to wins and losses and because of it they may, regardless of the referee’s performance, become highly emotional and disruptive while in the technical area.

Parents and other spectators may have some emotional involvement with some players or a team. They also may not have a full understanding of the Laws of the Game or a good working knowledge of how the game is played. Although well meaning, in most instances, their ego may also lead to a disruptive behavior.

So what is the referee to do when confronted with disruptive behavior from the sidelines?
First, decide if the conduct is affecting the players and/or the game. Is the behavior due to frustration? If the disruption is minimal, maybe the team is losing or playing poorly and the uniform, not necessarily the referee himself or herself, becomes the target for the frustration. It may be unfortunate but officials, in every sport, have to learn to deal with that aspect of the sport they officiate.

What if the disruptive behavior is misconduct? Misconduct includes foul and abusive language and dissent from the referee’s decision. The Laws state that coaches should be cautioned for dissent and sent off for foul and abusive language. Referees have NO POWER to discipline parents or spectators however, coaches should be held accountable for the behavior of their parents and spectators.
A referee should do all he/she can to enlist the coach’s help to deal with the disruptive spectator(s) and as a last resort, discipline the coach if he/she fails to gain the cooperation of the spectators.

If you decide to deal with the problem, here are a few suggestions:

Identify the problem

Is it a problem for you, the players or the game? What are acceptable actions? Identify what will resolve the situation. The goal is cooperation.

Stay in control

Pick an easy moment. Let the coach vent a while. Ease into the confrontation. Why sprint? Give yourself time to think and calm down.

Pick a good spot

A spot down the touchline and away from people makes it easier to deal with the coach and save self-esteem.

Be firm but fair

Limits are fine but stubbornness may not work well.

Be quick

Nobody came to watch a confrontation between a coach and referee. Deal with the coach and get the game under way. Everybody is happier when the ball is in play.

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)