Perhaps we’ve been shouted at by the boss. Perhaps it’s a healthy disrespect for authority. There are many reasons why we shout at the umpire.
- An NT soccer club has teams rejected from the 2020 league after poor behaviour by some players, officials, and spectators
- It follows similar problems at Aussie Rules and basketball fixtures in Darwin
- Academics applaud the teams’ rejection, but say abuse of officials is increasing
A Darwin soccer team has been rejected from the local league because of the behaviour of its players and spectators toward referees and opposition teams.
It follows NT AFL umpires calling on match managers to eject unruly spectators, and the cancellation of the entire round 9 of Darwin’s basketball fixtures in 2019.
Darwin Olympic Sporting Club’s men’s premier league and division one teams were refused entry to the 2020 competitions in the Northern Territory.
Football NT president Stuart Kenny blamed “a catalogue of demonstrable breaches of the code of conduct by officials, some players, and some spectators”.
There have been media reports of young female referees leaving the pitch in tears, umpires refusing to attend Olympic’s games, and the club’s spectators costing the club points for abusing referees.
“There has been a consistent pattern of poor behaviour, which included threats and offensive language directed toward match officials,” Mr Kenny said.
“After much deliberation we believe it is time to protect the young children and adults who play and officiate in our game.”
The club’s new president has since had a “mutually beneficial” meeting with Football NT.
Luxembourg’s Lunex University Sport and Exercise Psychology senior lecturer Dr Fraser Carson said umpire and referee abuse was increasing.
“Some people believe umpires are there just for them to shout at and take their anger out on,” he said.
Dr Carson said accurate TV replay technology was putting more pressure on umpires and eroding respect.
“Because we can play back things in 15 frames per second to try to analyse a decision, as opposed to what the umpire is actually seeing in real time, that becomes a problem for them,” he said.
That, coupled with an angry, stressed, and frustrated society was a perfect storm for umpire abuse.
“People are looking for ways to remove that stress or even take some control back over what they do,” Dr Carson said.
“Potentially, they’ve just been shouted at by their boss.
“So they want some way to release that stress.”
Everyone makes mistakes
Charles Sturt University Associate Professor Peter Simmons is a lifelong soccer player and fan, qualified soccer referee, and now plays for Panorama Football Club in Bathurst, NSW.
After one of his son’s games, Dr Simmons saw the opposition coach enter the referees’ changing rooms.
“He was just so angry, he seemed to be on the point of violence. His face was red. He was shouting. It was just the most bizarre thing,” he said.
And he once saw a referee get physically assaulted by a goalkeeper in a game in which he was playing.
“He threw the ball so hard at the back of the referee’s head his head nearly bounced off,” Dr Simmons said.
“There are a lot of referees, I think, who would be pleased to see this move by Football NT.
“The biggest problem is when it’s away from televised games.
“It might be just a rope or even nothing between you and the angry mob.”
Dr Simmons said interactive sports such as football, rugby, and basketball caused the biggest issues for umpires.
“The referee’s actions have a real consequence for the flow of the play,” he said.
He has some advice for umpires.
“Mistakes will be made by anybody at every level,” he said.
“Be competent, dependable, and respectful, and you’ll improve the chances that your decisions will be perceived to be fair.”
While an angry mob and an unprepared referee will always be a match made in hell, dislike of authority may be in our DNA.
Swinburne University of Technology Associate Professor Robert Gill has played, coached, and umpired AFL and rugby union semi-professionally in Australia and in the UK.
“There’s the syndrome of being a colony that has a paternal father figure, like the UK that settled Australia, and the authority figure that the jovial Australian likes to butt heads against and be a little bit rebellious,” he said.
He pointed to rugby union as having a high standard of respect for officials.
“The way that a rugby union official conducts themselves on the field, it’s very much: ‘I’m in charge. I’m in control here. And my word is the decision. And if you want to jack up against that decision, then your team may be penalised’,” Dr Gill said.
“And that seems to work.”