Soccer parents ‘abusive’ behavior blamed for ref shortage

Referees in Albuquerque, New Mexico are calling foul on parents’ behavior at soccer games. Many even call it referee abuse.

The New Mexico Youth Soccer Association has started putting up signs at games reminding spectators to behave.

Right now, there are 85 referees to be split among high school and club leagues. Dave Lauben, who oversees scheduling for high school games, said that is an all-time low.

“Ten years ago, that number was about 140,” he said.

Lauben said already this year, 25 games have been canceled because he couldn’t find a referee.

“That is twice as many as I’ve had to cancel in the three years prior,” he said.

When it comes to coaches and players, referees have the authority to hand out yellow cards as warning for unruly behavior. They can also give out a red card, which means they are done. But, when it comes to spectators, referees have far less authority.

“We have to work through administrators, and they do the best they can to manage the situation,” Lauben said.

Sally Marquez, executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, recently sent a letter to all high school soccer coaches. She shared a resignation letter from one referee who said in part: “Soccer parents: You are absolutely 100% the reason that we have a critical refereeing shortage and games are being cancelled left and right. And you are part of the reason I’m done here.”

Marquez said a ban on all spectators, or sanctions on parents are not off the table. For now, they will work on increasing the number of administrators at games.