REFS SEE RED OVER ABUSE
By Steve Spinks
CONSOLING a sobbing 13-year-old girl is not supposed to be part of Dick Nolan's job as the Football Far North Coast Refereees' Association president.
But it is a duty he's had to perform after the teenager was called a 'f - whore' while she ran the line as the assistant referee during a recent Premier Division soccer match. The club involved was fined $200.
This was just one of a number of abusive incidents directed at local soccer referees during the past month as emotions have built up in the run-up to the finals.
In other controversies, one player has been handed a seven-year ban and another a three-year ban from the sport after an unbelievable over-35s match recently between Lennox Head and Byron Bay.
During the match three red cards, seven yellow cards and three misconduct reports were issued by the referee. The young official was later confronted by a player who threatened to burn out his eyes with a cigarette.
The bans are on appeal to the soccer judiciary. And only last week, a referee was called a 'f cheat' by a spectator watching the Premier League match between Italo Stars and Richmond Rovers. This incident is also under investigation.
For Nolan, the abuse being hurled at his colleagues is unacceptable.
"It's a concern we've had for a while and generally they are happening with games played late at night when alcohol is involved," he said.
"The young referee called a f whore as she ran the line in Premier Division ... she's only 13 and in line for a number of referee awards at the end of the year."
The worrying aspect of the attacks on officials is that it seems to be coming from adults and it is having an effect on referee numbers.
"A couple of years ago we did a survey on 40 kids who signed up to referee," Nolan said. "At the end of the season 20 of them gave it away because of abuse received from either parents on the sidelines or senior players."
There are about 7500 registered players in Far North Coast soccer and only 123 referees.
"I do believe that Football Far North Coast is doing a good job and it is gradually getting a hold of it (abuse)," Nolan said.
"But sometimes I do think the sentences (handed out by the judiciary) are a bit light."
Football FNC general manager Matt Kelso said threatening behaviour won't be tolerated.
"It's disappointing that it (the abuse) is coming from people who should know better," he said.