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Being a Referee SUCKS!

Posted December 4th, 2012 by Editorial Staff

Youth Soccer Referees

Being a youth soccer referee is probably the worst job in the world – next to being President of the United States.  The game official is absolutely necessary for the game, but if they do a great job, no one notices.  However, one slip or missed call and they become the focal point of the entire match.  According to the parents and coaches of the losing squad, it was one bad call by the referee that was the turning point to them losing the entire game.

What parents and coaches fail to understand is that the officials we have now are THE BEST available.  Chasing one off means that there may not be anyone to replace them.  If some poor soul DOES step forward, they’ll most likely be worse than the one you just got rid of (read that as: less experienced.

Referee Mentality


Before the game formalities…
Player -“You must really hate your wife, to be out here.
Referee –  “You have no idea.


Referee abuse is an anomaly to normal society.  If you saw a late 30’s to early 50’s adult standing on the sidewalk berating a teenager or young adult from a distance, you’d probably intercede or call the police, but at youth sporting events, it’s commonplace and ACCEPTED.   Go to any sports complex and stop at any field for any sport and you’ll see parents standing or sitting on the sideline yelling at the referee and questioning every call they make – the entire game.

Why would anyone want to be a referee?

When they step onto the field, youth soccer referees know that every call they make will be scrutinized and every step they take on the field will be measured against biased parent and coach perception.  No matter who the foul is called against, someone is going to be upset about it… and they’ll question and badger the ref until the final whistle blows.  But for all that is negative about being a referee, for some reason, we still have people willing to do the job.  The pay must be AWESOME!

Richard Nieuwenhuizen, Dutch referee murdered by youth soccer playersReal Danger to Referees

Youth sports officials have every right to fear for their lives. Go on YouTube and you can find a dozen video clips of referees getting beaten.   Just recently, a youth soccer linesman in the Netherlands was beaten and kicked to death by several teenage players (Read more: DailyMail).  As any player’s behavior is usually a direct reflection of their parent’s behavior, and since children learn through the actions of their parents, you can bet that the four teenagers involved in this hideous crime have parents that are the loudest and most critical of referees.

Most youth soccer referees are really just kids themselves, carrying out adult responsibilities. This is a difficult situation for most teens and young adults, as older adults and parents have always been the authority figures in their lives.  Now, they’re the authority figure. Any referee will tell you that their goal is to keep the rhythm of game flowing smoothly and that they have no bias one way or the other as to the outcome.  Parents on the sidelines however, appear to believe otherwise.

Referee Recourse

In the United States, soccer referees don’t have the authority to show red cards and formally eject fans or parents, but they can stop the game and require that a parent leave the area before the game resumes. If a youth soccer referee ever feels that they are in eminent danger by both fans and coaches, they should immediately and quickly leave the field and find a field marshal, the club director or a local club coach from another game on an adjoining field.

The referee should NEVER engage a belligerent parent.  Doing so is dangerous, as it may incite violence.  When faced with a potentially volatile situation, a referee should:

  1. 1. Pause the game.
  2. 2. Walk to the the coach/player side of the field.
  3. 3. Inform both coaches of the situation.
  4. 4. Have the appropriate coach ask the abusive parent to leave.
  5. 4. Wait with the coaches until the parent leaves.
  6. 5. Resume the game.


THANK Your Referee

Imagine your own work environment.  What if your boss stood across the room and yelled “Come on!”,  and “Are you kidding me!”  How about, “Is this your first DAY!?  What are you doing!?”  Officiating sports is tough enough without someone standing over you and scrutinizing every step you take. So, instead of verbally abusing the referee at your next game, make a point to thank them BEFORE the game, as well as after for their service.

Without them, there are no “organized” sports.

From ESPN’s June 14 episode of Outside the Lines – Officials Attacked


About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."


  1. I’m considered as the best referee of my region under 18. I agree with you, some sides of being a ref sucks. We’re underpaid, we’re yelled at, insulted, threatened and even once in a while hit by others. But it is the greatest job I ever had. It starts as a job, but if you last long enough, it becomes a passion. After a while, I stopped wondering how much I make and I was only glad to be giving back to my sport

  2. I’ve been a referee for nearly 20 years, and I can agree with everything you say. Being a referee does suck. I have been doing it for so long though that they won’t let me quit. The hardest part of it all is that I can never do enough games. There is always a game or two that are short refs or a linesman. Eventually the referee pool will completely dry up, because new refs quit as soon as they get started.

  3. Andreas Hoesch on

    Well, I agree a little that the situation in the video is not solved in a best way:
    1. It is better to inform the coach to which this man belongs and to request him to tell the guy to shut up or to go.
    2. She discussed too much with him.
    BUT: The choice of words and conversational tone of this man is disrespectful, insulting and arrogant. This man is not interested in de-escalation. He provokes the referee again and again without finding an end. But she is calm, objective and consistent and she seems to know exactly what she is doing. And she is superior to him verbally and intellectually and makes it clear that he poisoned the atmosphere on the field. Experience shows that such a thing easily skips to the players in youth matches in a short time. And THEN the referee has a serious problem. Parents have to understand that the only important center is the game of their children and not the personal problems, frustrations and wrong superior attitude of adults. The referee shows a compelling and energetic personality with self-consciousness, which really impressed me. Andreas (Referee, Germany)

  4. Barry Sherry on

    The referee should NEVER engage a belligerent parent. Doing so is dangerous, as it may incite violence.

    Referees should not talk to spectators. Period. To do so is to elevate their status to that of equal of the referee. If a spectator is interfering with the match the referee, particularly a youth referee, should approach both coaches and apprise them of the situation. They can inform the coaches that the game will not resume as long as the parent remains at the field. There is no confrontation between referee and spectator. In fact, the referee need not “throw a parent out.” They just make it clear the game will not resume if they stay. The choice to stay or go is theirs. If the spectator doesn’t leave the match is terminated.

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