First of all, I really appreciate your “Ask a Referee” Forum. I read it often to reinforce my understanding in regards to handling both rare and common issues that arise during a match.

I referee a lot of youth matches and I have seen a fair share of poor sportsmanship displayed by fans (mostly parents)-who loudly protest every call made against their team and scream about fair challenges that result in little Johnny or little Suzie hitting the turf. I have witnessed fans inciting aggressive and dangerous behavior on the pitch resulting in cautions and send-offs. This behavior permeates from U10 on up.

I know that as a center I have the power to terminate a match if any unsafe condition(s) exists-I have never gone to this extreme, but I have ejected spectators from the area who consistently exhibit bad behavior.

My question to you is what is the recommended way to handle a situation where the fans are affecting play on the pitch in a negative way? Should I as the referee eject the fan, or should I instruct the team or tournament officials to do that? Is there a USSF position paper that addresses this issue?

Answer (June 20, 2007):
The referee may have team officials removed from the area of the field of play, but, unless the rules of the competition in which you referee permit it, you have no direct authority to remove spectators. Without something in the rules of the competition, the only option open to you is to speak with the coach or other team official and let them know that they must do something to curb the offending behavior by the spectator. Tell them that if this behavior does not cease, you will be forced to suspend the game for “grave disorder,” and if the person is not removed within a reasonable time (set by the referee), the match will be terminated with a full report to the competition authorities to follow.

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