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Abuse and Dissent: How Ontario Soccer is making the game safer for everyone

By Staff, 07/03/19, 11:15AM EDT


Survey responses from Match Officials across the province in 2018 indicated that Ontario Soccer needed to implement more strategies towards Abuse and Dissent

Play. Inspire. Unite. 

In such a fast paced game, quick decisions are imperative. Regardless of the scale of the match, decisions will be made, and mistakes will happen. It is estimated that Match Officials at the higher level make over 245 decisions per game.

These decisions are equally as important as any decisions the coaches, players and Goalkeepers make. The imperative difference between the two, is that players are quickly forgiven when it comes to making mistakes once they’ve made a good play. Match Officials unfortunately aren’t as lucky in this regard, as they also must overcome an entirely divided group of players, coaches and spectators – each with their own opinion on the Match Officials decisions.

There’s an odd belief in parenting and coaching circles today that by somehow raising their voice more, the message that they are trying to deliver will be better received. Unfortunately, the opposite is more frequently true. Yelling at youth referees usually distracts them from the game, and shuts them down, performance-wise. Contrary to what have may be seen on TV, yelling is not the best way to motivate a referee to scale new performance heights.

The result?

This double-standard has led to many Match Officials being mistreated and abused both during and after a match. Based on surveys conducted by Ontario Soccer from 2012 to 2019, Abuse and Dissent consistently ranks in the top 2 reasons why Match Officials would choose not to, or do not, return to the game.

This point is increasingly emphasized when returning Match Officials ranked “How to deal with Abuse and Dissent” as the most important education topic needed for their continued success.

The Solution:

Survey responses from Match Officials across the province in 2018 indicated that Ontario Soccer needed to implement more strategies towards Abuse and Dissent, to not only protect our Match Officials from this behaviour, but to give them the tools to deal with it if it does arise.

Ontario Soccer works with Respect in Sport to equip Match Officials with the tools needed to deal with harassment and abuse, while working to add more education sessions in this regard.

Ontario Soccer’s LTOD program aims to bring Match Officials into the shared spotlight of player and coach success.

  • Ontario Soccer have launched a brand new Mentor Program to assist with the development of young aspiring Match Officials. This will also give the mentee a sense of comfort and support when dealing with high-pressure and Abuse and Dissent situations both on and off the pitch.
  • Abuse against Youth Match Officials brings an increased penalty (typically double that of abuse against an adult Match Official).
  • Ontario Soccer LTOD Camps are offered free of cost to Clubs, Districts and registered Match Officials, providing additional training on and off the field.
  • Ontario Soccer are developing a Coach and Parent education module to be introduced in 2020. This will assist in the understanding the role of the Match Officials, their development pathways, and the need for the reduction of Abuse and Dissent. This is to show that the quality of officiating is directly proportional to the quality of play. In other words, parents and coaches should not expect professional-caliber officiating at an 8-year-old's game.
  • Our Match Official Newsletter looks to highlight achievements of our Match Officials across the province as we strive to have Match Official’s being celebrated in the same light as our players and coaches. We’ve reached out to our membership encouraging everyone to share inspiring moments.

If you have stories in your community about how match officials are making a difference or organizations who are investing in match official development, please contact Ontario Soccer and let us know.