Sue, a U-12 and under parent, asks:
What are the rules governing the behaviour of parents at a game? Last week my son’s under 12s played a match during which one of our players was quite rightly sent off after hitting one of the opposing players. He has since received a fine & ban. However, the parent of the child that was hit not only went onto the pitch, but threatened our player & his family then let loose with a tirade of the most foul language I have to say I have ever heard. This delayed the game for at least 10 minutes. In addition, more threats were received at the end of the game & missiles were thrown at cars as they left the ground. Should this parent receive a warning regarding his behaviour & should he receive a ban/fine too?
Oh, my! Parents acting badly.
Asking this question as a parent puts you in a different position than if the question were asked by a referee. The Laws of the Game, with only one exception, do not control or manage the behavior of anyone other than rostered players/substitutes and team officials (anyone who is also on the roster and allowed to be in the team area but is not a player). All such persons are termed “outside agents” and are not under the authority of the Referee. They are, however, under the control of the competition authority (i.e., the organization – league, tournament, etc.) which is responsible for the game. That authority should have rules governing the behavior of outside agents. Many leagues, for example, require that an officer or agent of the league be present at or in the vicinity of matches it is sponsoring and it is to that person that the sort of behavior you described should be reported. Lacking a presence at the field, however, anyone present is free to file a complaint or protest with the league or tournament concerning the behavior of persons associated with a team. If the game is held in a public place, such as a park or school field, complaints could also be directed immediately to persons representing the game site who possess police authority over the conduct of anyone there.
The only authority the Referee has in this regard (note the “one exception” mentioned above) is to suspend the match where spectator behavior is deemed to be interfering with the game (keeping in mind the ultimate objectives of youth soccer – safety, fairness, and enjoyment) and to terminate any match immediately if, in the opinion of the Referee, outside agent behavior makes continuation of the match a danger to the players, team officials, or the officiating team itself. Further, the Referee has an obligation, whether or not a match is suspended and/or terminated, to include in the match report full details of any incidents that bear on the conduct of the match, including disruptive behavior of outside agents.
Referees are strenuously advised not to deal directly with obstreperous outsiders. At early stages of a spectator/parent problem, Referees should work through one or both coaches to achieve a resolution of the interference — which can include a statement that the match could be terminated if the disruptive actions continue. Where this is unsuccessful (or where the source of the problem is team officials themselves), the “nuclear option” of termination should be invoked. Immediately contacting the Referee association or assignor is also advised.