Thursday, May 16, 2013

Soccer violence: Referees under siege

(CNN) -- In the U.S., a referee is punched and later dies. Meanwhile In Europe, a Dutch volunteer linesman is beaten to death, a teenage Spanish referee is violently assaulted, and in Germany a match official is hospitalized.

They are almost as essential to the functioning of the game as the ball they bring onto the pitch for kickoff, but soccer referees across the world are feeling under siege.

Subjected to vulgar insults, threatened, chased off the field, attacked, hospitalized and, tragically, killed.

Read: Referee punched in face by teen player dies

In the most recent incident, 46-year old Ricardo Portillo -- refereeing an amateur game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville -- was punched on April 27 after booking a player. He died from his injuries on Saturday. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of CNN.

Kicking Back Comments: A very worthy read. The author is right on many level in this piece. While I am not a fan of Zero Tolerance as defined in many youth leagues around here, such referee abuse is the largest reason for it to stop it before it even starts.

My earlier question still stands in how far we as referees can go to (physically) stop such an incident before it turns deadly?


  1. Start by making good calls. There are too many bad, vindictive refs out there. They put the kids at risk by not controlling the game.

    The facts are coming out on the punch incident. The call was bad. It was a corner kick. The offensive player screened the keeper. It is offsetting fouls for the keeper to push someone who screens him, but the ref only called the keeper. A PK was most likely coming next. The 17 year-old struck out in frustration. Not that it will help the kid, but it may shave some off the 5-year sentence after the trial.

  2. Anon,

    Is a bad call worth killing a man over? I can't imagine the worst call ever, or a match where a referee was completely in the tank being worth a life.

    Regarding saving time ... it is unlikely that frustration with a referee will be viewed as a mitigating circumstance for this kid ... assuming he is tried as one.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. You miss the point. The DA said the kid did not intend to kill the ref. Who would have thought one punch would do it? If it is a five year max as an adult,I will wager the bad call will cause the judge/jury to move it down to 4, 3, 2 and one-half maybe. The kid will be lawyered and probably at public expense. The bad-call point will be made and the refs history will also be fair game in court. A strike in anger over a bad call is not so hard to understand. We will see. The kid is toast, but I bet he does not get the max. Reports say he has no prior record. It was his first time playing keeper for this team and certainly wanted to look good, but the ref nullified it with a wrong call. The kid was correct in knowing the rules. He was trying to communicate it to the ref who was ignoring him and writing up his yellow card instead. That would probably have been followed by a PK. It could be argued the kid just wanted to get the refs attention. I do not find is so hard to understand.

    Keep the other facts in mind. This ref was hit multiple times before. Just how bad a ref is he? I have never seen a ref hit in 14 years of youth soccer. Also, this was an unsanctioned soccer league and he was not a certified ref by the Utah soccer authorities.

    While it has no direct bearing on the immediate case, there is another fact that bothers me. The ref was 46 and came to the US at age 29. They said he was talking to the EMT and police through interpreters. He was in this country for 17 years, yet still could not speak English.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to clarify your points Anon. You make yourself quite clear this round.

      While I agree that this player will not get the maximum sentence due to the fact he has no prior record, and the crime will likely be charged as involuntary manslaughter, the player is still responsible for the death both criminally and in tort without the formation of premeditated intent. Even if the DA was silly enough to make the statements you cite (I have no reason to doubt you), the referee making a bad call is completely non-relevant as crimes can be committed "in the heat of passion" and without malice aforethought which is the requirement in most jurisdictions for charging murder.

      Where I very much disagree with you is that somehow that a "bad call" from a referee is an excuse in the eyes of the law for committing homicide. The DA would be a fool if they bring this up as mitigation. Can you see the argument ...

      "Well ... while death was caused from a single strike, however unlikely, the player was enraged by the fact that the call was incorrect in a recreational soccer game."

      There is no legal argument there for mitigation.

      On the topic of a single blow causing the death. I agree it is unlikely, BUT for both criminal and tortuous liability it is a matter of causation, not intent. The blow clearly caused the death, that is enough in the law to satisfy that element. Also, in tort the concept of "you take the plaintiff as they are" comes into play regarding medical issues.

      Your point of "This ref was hit multiple times before" I directly disagree with. Does that mean that players who experience a sub standard referee have more license to assault that referee? While an argument can be made that a referee is poor, there is no nexus that can be made legally to assault from there.

      The fact that it was an non-sanctioned league has bearing on insurance, not criminality. Most crimes occur without a construct such as a recreational league formed around them.

      On your last point, the referee was here in the United States and is reported a citizen. As such he is granted all the rights and privileges per COTUS. While English is the recognized language of the US, no where in that document have I seen that English is a requirement to receive these Natural Rights.

      Thanks for reading,

    2. Thanks for the discussion. While it is not illegal for the person to be here 17 years and not speak English, my point is it bothers me that he was. If you are okay with it, then we just will have to disagree. Remember, in Calcutta the parents deliberately cripple their children to make them better beggars. Anyone in the US who does not demand speaking English in their home with their kids is doing the same -- deliberately crippling their children.

      We do not know the autopsy results yet. The ref could have been a dead man walking from a condition and any blow could have triggered it. Of course, that is only speculation.

      I have repeatedly said the kid is up the river for some amount of time. My point is if the issue is made that the kid just hit the ref because he was mad versus he was upset over a bad game-changing call, I think the kid will get an easier penalty. I the event of a tort case, I wonder if the bad call would qualify as "contributory negligence" and make it a push?

    3. Anon,

      Great discussion. I appreciate your input and I agree with you on your 1st point.

      While it does not bother me regarding English as the native tongue of the victim, i agree with you that it can be a significant disadvantage today. Given this gentleman was in his 40's I'm not totally surprised that he could not, or found it easier to converse in another language.

      Your analogy is particularly powerful in this regard, and I agree that kids (especially) are better learning as many languages as they can, to be as best prepared as possible for the future.

      I like your other point too, and I think your on target that the kid just needs to say he was pissed off by the bad decision, and ask for mercy from The Court.

      I think that is at the heart of your comment, and I agree with you, as I see it as really the only way forward for him.

      Thanks again for the well though comment, and continued discussion.

      Thanks for reading,

  4. Leaving aside all the legality of this case, I would like to bring up a possible source for this and many violent incidents in sports (or life in general).
    More people are resorting to violence because they are not being taught conflict resolution and coping with adversity skills. Parents will do everything possible to shield their children from failure and conflict. And when they fail or are in conflict with someone, parents excuse the failure by pointing fingers. Could these violent actions be unintended consequences of "helicopter parenting"?

    Just wondering.


    1. An interesting point ... and one I agree with in general.

      While we may never know the "root cause" of this particular incident, taking personal responsibility for ones actions is (sadly) a fading proposition.

      Helicopter parenting may be one cause of this general decline, and a lack of active conflict resolution ... or learning to compromise when you can is certainly another.

      An interesting thought indeed Ellie.

      Thanks for reading,