(NewsNation) — After seeing abusive behavior from fans, the largest referee organization in Texas is asking schools to clean up their act or they will stop sending their members to games.
The Texas Association of Sports Officials’ decision to suspend the assignments of referees to schools that demonstrate a “repeated culture of abuse” is thought to be the first in the U.S., according to Business Wire.
“We just need respect because you can’t play the games without us,” Michael Fitch, executive director of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, which boasts around 15,000 members, said. “The verbal abuse is getting worse and it’s like nobody wants to talk about it or do anything about it. So we decided to take matters into our own hands”.
Data from the National Association of Sports officials shows a majority of referees have suffered verbal and even physical abuse, including players tackling them to the ground, getting punched, fans yelling at the camera and even parents following them home. More than 70% of new referees in all sports quit the job within three years, the New York Times reported. A survey from the National Association of Sports Officials found the most common cause cited by those who quit was bad behavior from parents and coaches.
Another study commissioned by the organization found 13% of the 17,000 current or former referees who responded had been assaulted physically during or after a game, and 46% had feared for their safety.
Because so many referees have quit, schools across the country have had to call off some games, the Associated Press wrote.
Now, the Texas Association of Sports Officials is establishing a “three-strike rule” for schools to curb unruly actions from spectators. If an individual school has three submitted “incident reports” from TASO members, the association’s staff will review the reports. The Texas Association of Sports Officials will then notify the school’s athletic director or superintendent, requesting they respond with a detailed plan to control their players, coaches and fans’ conduct within seven days.
Schools that refuse to do something about their spectators’ behavior will no longer get to have TASO officials at their games until they do.
“It’s up to each individual school to provide security and provide protection for the officials, and they are going to have to do their jobs,” Fitch said. “Everybody talks about it, but no one has offered a solution. We’ve offered a solution.”
NewsNation has reached out to the Texas Athletic Association and school districts for comment.