The bold new practice is being tested as “Silent September.”
Verbal abuse of youth refs has become so problematic that South Carolina’s Youth Soccer Association has launched “Silent September.” The edict maintains “no cheering, no jeering” for parents. Spectators are free to talk in the stands but they are not to direct comments toward the field of play. Violators will be given two warnings before being ejected from the game. The YSA crafted the policy as a means of tackling abuse toward referees, many of whom are kids themselves. CNN reports that, of the 1,200 soccer refs in the state, 500 are younger than 17.
The response comes after an April incident in which a 16-year-old referee was attacked by a soccer mom on the field following a foul called on her child. The rise of harassment has reached near epidemic levels as officials are choosing to leave refereeing for less abusive working conditions, leading to fears of a ref shortage.