Roping off spectators from games has helped alleviate violence at local rugby games, the Hawke's Bay Rugby Referees Association says.
Though some school and club sport games had been marred by violence in other parts of the country in recent months, Keith Groube from the Hawke's Bay Rugby Referees Association said officials had not encountered similar problems for well over a year.
"This year we haven't received as much as possibly there has been in previous years," Mr Groube said.
The provincial union's club rugby managers were at games, ensuring clubs took responsibility for their spectators and roping the field off a "decent distance" from the playing area.
This had helped avoid confrontations taking place.
Only one referee-abuse complaint had been filed in Hawke's Bay this year, which Mr Groube said was a verbal altercation.
"We don't necessarily take that as sideline abuse, the time when we start looking at it is when it does actually get personal."
The association's comments come after a referee was allegedly punched in the face twice by a spectator at the Auckland secondary schools final on Saturday.
Auckland Rugby Referees Association chairman Don Crawford said the spectator who assaulted the referee had been supporting the De La Salle team, which lost the game to Auckland Grammar.
Police were called out but could not identify the offender.
The violence has sparked concerns about the effect on young players who witness abuse during kids' games.
A concerned group in Auckland launched a campaign in 2009 to deal with the ugly issue prevalent in many sporting codes - abuse from the sideline towards match officials and players.
The Sideline Behaviour Group includes representatives from regional sporting organisations around the Auckland province.
It produced a promotional video and resources for coaches, teachers, players, and spectators to promote positive sideline behaviour.
AUT researcher Simon Walters published a report in March analysing the impact of adult sideline behaviour on children aged 6 to 18 at rugby union, netball, and football games.
It found younger children were exposed to higher levels of instruction and more negative comments than their older counterparts.
Mr Walters recommended more club-based coach education be carried out to educate coaches and parents about the benefits of creating a positive playing environment for children and youth. APNZ