- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

A local girls' soccer team, suspended then disbanded after parents took their "sideline rage" out on a teen-age referee, will be reinstated if the soccer moms and dads take sportsmanship classes.
The reversal by the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association [MSYSA] is igniting debate between officials who think the original punishments were too harsh and those who will not tolerate overzealous parents.
Meanwhile, some fear the decision and the attention it has drawn may make it difficult to find and retain referees for the fall season.
"I'm more concerned about how many people won't try to become referees because of the perceived difficulties," said Donn Lewis of the Columbia Soccer Referees' Association.
Keeping referees — about half of whom usually quit in the first six months — "is a serious problem," Mr. Lewis said. "This occurrence certainly doesn't do anything to help the situation."
The Crofton Hot Shots Soccer Club, an under-14 girls' team, sparked the imbroglio on June 3 in a game against the Soccer Club of Baltimore Bays.
In her complaint, the 16-year-old female referee said the game was physical from the onset. About 10 minutes into the second half, the Crofton goalie was injured, further heightening the tension.
Parents chided the referee as the players "were cursing at the other players and amongst themselves," the complaint stated. The Hot Shots lost the game.
"After the game, the Crofton parents followed me as I was on the way to my car — my two linesmen accompanied me — threatening to 'sue me,' 'kick my [behind],' they were going 'to come to my house,'" the referee said.
She also reported that someone had scrawled an expletive on the van she was driving.
A report by the Washington Area Girls Soccer League [WAGS] discipline committee said, "No teen-aged center referee should have to be afraid for her safety as she leaves the field of play."
WAGS officials suspended the team through the fall season. But the Crofton Athletic Council, which oversees youth sports in that Anne Arundel County community, disbanded the team and announced the resignation of coach Doug Cahill.
On Monday, an appeal was heard by three MSYSA officials. The hearing brought together representatives from all facets, including the referee, who used a back door to avoid the parents. In the end, the officials overruled the Crofton Athletic Council, with the provision for the sportsmanship classes.
According to MSYSA President Jerry May, the council never had the authority to break up the team. Also, there was never a "finding of fact" because the girl, too frightened to turn around, never saw her tormenters.
The parents were found to have acted objectionably during the game.
"The club should have dealt with the parents internally rather than just kicking them out," Mr. May said.
WAGS President Kathie Diapoulis was furious after the ruling, insisting "the whole thing is absolutely ludicrous."
She intends to appeal to the state association's board or to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which regulates the game nationwide.
"Who else would have reason to do this to [the referee, if not the parents]," Miss Diapoulis said.
In the meantime, the future of the team is still in question. As far as Mr. May is concerned, "the team has never ceased to be a team."
Without its club backing, the team can not compete as the Crofton Hot Shots. The appeals process, meanwhile, is sure to be long.
"Sideline rage" can be ferocious in soccer, where parents push their children to earn spots on traveling teams and possibly earn scholarships, said state referee administrator Greg Watson.
"Yeah, we're seeing more and more pushing of the limits," said Mr. Watson, who has experienced three assaults in his 18 years of working the sidelines.
Mr. Watson added that he is not seeing reduced numbers of would-be referees in his summer classes.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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