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No Ref, No Game

Match Official Anti-Bullying and Harassment Program

Match Official abuse is a common problem that can be felt across most sports at all levels, around the world. It is an issue that threatens the viability of our sport systems given games cannot take place without officiating. Moreover, recent data confirms that maltreatment is the number one factor affecting retention in soccer and that Match Officials are at increased risk for mental health challenges. 

Unfortunately, soccer in Ontario is not immune to said problem which spiked following the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this growing issue, Ontario Soccer has embarked on a multi-year program surrounding Match Official Bullying and Harassment that will holistically address the problem through policy and discipline changes, and public/participant education. The program, currently underway, is being led by a marketing and awareness campaign called #NoRefNoGame.

Program outline

#NoRefNoGame Match Official Anti-Bullying and Harassment Program


In a symbolic gesture to kick off the #NoRefNoGame Match Official Anti-Bullying and Harassment Program, Ontario Soccer's Board of Directors and District Association Leaders signed a pledge and charter, publicly committing to supporting the program and Match Officials with a zero-tolerance approach.

View the pledges below:

Match Official Warm Welcome MilkUP Prize Pack Contest

In partnership with Dairy Farmers of Ontario, 100 MilkUP prize packs with branded swag, were awarded to new Match Officials in Ontario to help spread the word about the No Ref, No Game campaign, further building awareness through visual cues.

Match Official Carol Christopoulos from Wallaceburg enjoying her newly recieved prize pack with tons of great swag!

New Match Official Kyla Turner from Sudbury, being awarded her prize pack by District Referee Coordinator Milton Lessis.


Research, Data Collection and Analysis

As illustrated in the Program Outline graphic above, Phase 2 of the #NoRefNoGame Match Official Anti-Bullying and Harassment Program involved the consultation of various working groups to inform on policy and discipline regulation refinements to Ontario Soccer’s Operational Procedures with respect to Match Official abuse. These refinements are currently in review by Ontario Soccer Senior Management. Final updates to Ontario Soccer’s Operational Procedures will be reviewed and approved by the  Board of Directors in December and will go into effect in 2024.  

Pilot Projects

Phase 3 currently underway, involves the implementation of various pilot project initiatives over the next few years. The pilots include:

No Ref No Game - the continued promotion of the No Ref, No Game marketing and awareness campaign.

Take 5 – this initiative involves giving Match Officials the ability to give five minute ‘timeouts’ to individuals throughout the course of a match, to diffuse highly emotional situations. Details around this new strategy are still being finalized and will be shared once available. To learn more, see the following outline:

Body cameras – as you may have seen on various media channels in 2023, the body camera pilot involves the use of cameras mounted on Match Officials’ chest to act as a visual deterrent and data gathering mechanism for disciplinary and research purposes. Click here to learn more about the Body Camera pilot.

No Ref, No Game toolkit – much like initiatives in phase one, this strategy involves providing further resources and marketing collateral to Clubs and District Associations to join in the awareness building and marketing efforts surrounding No Ref, No Game.

University of Ottawa study – through a partnership with the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, are participating in a longitudinal research project studying the effects of “Ref Abuse” on the mental health of youth aged Match Officials.