It is never a comfortable moment, but officials have every right to take action and remove a player, coach, or bench personnel from the game for inappropriate behavior. It is the right thing for them to do. But what about unruly fans? How do officials deal with the unruly behavior of people who are beyond their jurisdiction?
The best way is to ask the home team coach to handle the situation. If another individual is present and, during the pregame meeting, was identified as being available for help, that is another option.
When the behavior starts to interfere with the game, it is never a good idea for an official to try to deal with spectators directly. The confrontation may lead others to join in, create more problems and possibly get physical.
Over time, fans, players, and coaches have come to believe that they have the right to question and openly challenge the decisions made by the officials during a contest. Young and inexperienced officials are eager and willing to step on the field and do their best job while actively learning the sport’s ins and outs. They do their best to overlook the comments and abuse; unfortunately, due to the harsh treatment they receive, many quit before settling into this job.
Officials have the tools to deal with disruptive behavior when it reaches an unacceptable level. US SOCCER has set up a three-step procedure (ASK, TELL, DISMISS) to help officials deal with behavior that interferes with the game and the official’s ability to do their job.
Periodically, officials must go above and beyond their primary officiating duties and deal with unruly and disruptive behavior. It is not an easy task, especially for new and inexperienced officials. Still, with proper help and support, it can and should be done for the good of the game and everyone’s enjoyment.