By: John Van de Vaarst
Recently two different officials were assaulted while performing their duties during a game. While both instances occurred during an American football game at the interscholastic level, it reminds all officials to be fully cognizant of the procedures to take in the event he/she is assaulted by a player, coach, bench personnel or a fan. The NCAA Rule Book indicates that assault includes pushing, shoving, spitting, kicking, throwing at or attempting to make contact on an official.” Physical contact with game officials will not be tolerated.” If this should occur the player, coach or bench personnel must be immediately ejected. The individual(s) involved will be suspended for a total of three games. One game is for the ejection and two games are for the assault on the official.
The NCAA Rule Book provides specific guidance on what the referee must due in the event of an assault. Rule 12.13, Assault on a Referee, indicates that “in the event of an assault on a referee, the referee shall inform the player(s) the head coach(s) and the official scorekeeper, who shall record on the official NCAA box score form that an ejection for referee assault has been issued. In addition, the referee shall electronically complete and file the Referee Assault Form located on the NCAA Soccer Central Hub website at www.NCAAsoccerarbitersports.com within 24 hours of completion of the game.” These are the basic requirements for an assault on an official. There are several other items that the referee must decide if an assault occurs.
First, the referee must decide if it is safe to continue the game. Was the assault an isolated incident that occurred during a highly contested game and was viewed by the official as an emotional moment? If it was merely contact with the official and not a more serious action, the referee may consider continuing the game. If the act was more serious and the referee is now concerned for the overall safety of the officiating team, the referee should terminate the game and advise both head coaches and official scorekeeper that the game is terminated. The referee should then immediately file a report with the assignor so that he/she is fully aware of the situation so that he/she can properly respond to the school administration and/or conference administrators.
If the assault was more serious (striking, kicking, shoved to the ground, etc.), the referee should immediately contact the local law enforcement officials and file criminal charges against the individual(s) involved. Behavior like this is not to be condoned and the official must take immediate action. School administrators take these matter seriously and do not want adverse publicity that a member of the school’s athletic program has been criminally charged.
The official involved in the incident should consider seeking legal counsel to determine if there is a civil action that should be initiated. If the official was hurt as a result of the assault, he/she may be eligible for compensatory damages through litigation. This is a decision that the official must make quickly so that the incident can become a matter of the official record.
One example of a member of NISOA being assaulted occurred when an assistant coach kicked the official during a game. The assistant was immediately ejected and both coaches and scorekeeper were notified that the game was terminated. The official involved contacted the local police who immediately responded. The police went into the locker room and arrested the assistant coach for assault. Within two days, the official was notified by a member of the school’s administration that the coach had been fired from the program. A hearing was conducted in local court and the former assistant coach was found guilty and fined. The quick and proper action by the official clearly demonstrated that assaults will not be tolerated and individuals will be held accountable for their actions.
If an official is assaulted by a fan, the official must immediately contact the school administration regarding the incident and consider contacting the local authorities to have assault charges filed. Fans can become overzealous and allow their emotions to guide their actions. It is imperative that inappropriate behavior by fans is dealt with quickly. If a fan begins to threaten the officiating team during the game, the referee should ask the school administration to remove the fan from the premises. This should eliminate the problem. If fans become so unruly that the officiating team is concerned about safety, the game should be terminated and the coaches and official scorekeeper advised as to the reasons for the termination. No official should feel that his/her safety is at jeopardy during an intercollegiate soccer game.
In summary, if an official or officiating team is assaulted the requirements of the NCAA Rule Book must be followed. Also, if the official deems it appropriate, a criminal and/or civil action should be initiated.