Sideline Champs: Girls' soccer sideline fight prompts crisis meeting

By Susan Edmunds, Russell Blackstock, Lynley Bilby

Well-behaved parents watch an Eastern Suburbs kids' football game. Photo / Michael Craig
Well-behaved parents watch an Eastern Suburbs kids' football game. Photo / Michael Craig

A disgraced coach of a girl's soccer team has been stood down indefinitely and a father banned from the watching his daughter play after a fight at a children's soccer match.

Auckland Football Federation confirmed yesterday separate judicial hearings were held for a Metro FC coach and an Eastern Suburbs AFC supporter after a physical altercation during a 13th grade girls second division soccer match at the Mt Albert Phyllis Street Reserve.

Federation chief executive officer David Parker said the Metro FC coach, whose daughted was in his team, was issued with a four-match suspension for the June 1 incident. The coach wrote a letter of apology to Eastern Suburbs club, attended anger counselling sessions and paid for the replacement of a pair of glasses broken when a bystander tried to break up the altercation. He has since been removed from all coaching duties.

The Eastern Suburbs father was issued with a one-match suspension and the club fined $100. On top of that his club has suspended him from attending his daughter's matches for the rest of the season and said he would not be welcome back on the sidelines next year either.

"The penalties issued in this particular case as a result of both the AFF Judicial and individual club processes shows that we view any breach of our game's code of conduct extremely seriously and this kind of behaviour has no place on our sidelines," Parker said.

Metro club chairman Doug Rencher said the barred coach was new to the role this season though he had previously been involved with the club. His child was still playing for the club and he was welcome to attend matches as a spectator.

The club called a crisis meeting of coaches in the grades most troubled by bad behaviour, and sent an email this week to all coaches, managers and parents, reminding them to act in a sporting manner when they went along to watch their children play.

Club secretary Ants Owens noted a significant rise in complaints ranging from minor to very extreme behaviour. It was important to respect the referees, opposition players and spectators, he wrote, "whether we agree or disagree with decisions or comments."

The incident is the latest to worry sports administrators this winter season, as they work with the Herald on Sunday to improve fan behaviour at grassroots games around the country.

Christchurch police are investigating an incident where an off-duty cop allegedly assaulted a referee at a premier league football game between Western and Cashmere Technical.

Match officials were verbally abused by Western supporters after some controversial decisions and two Western players were red-carded. Frustrations erupted at the end of the match, with referee Isaac Trevis confronted by Western players.

The man at the centre of the inquiry is understood to be Christchurch police officer Keith Rose, who had been on leave for an unrelated medical matter at the time.

Rose has dismissed the alleged incident, telling media it was "a big storm in a teacup".

Police senior sergeant Paul Merrett told the Herald on Sunday police had interviewed the assistant referee, who had made a complaint, and were investigating.

In other ugly incidents in the past two months, Sacred Heart College 1st XI soccer coach Danny Hay, a former All Whites captain, was ejected from a match and banned for four matches for abusing match officials.

Two Northland rugby clubs involved in an on-field brawl lost their captains and had points deducted, after supporters ran on to the field as fighting broke out in a Mangonui premier match last month.

A father marched his son across the field and ordered him to punch another boy in the face during an under-9 rugby league game, and softball great Eddie Kohlhase was punched on the sideline of an Auckland schools rugby match.

The Herald on Sunday's Sideline Champs campaign, calling for parents and other supporters to cheer loud and fair, has been endorsed by All Black Richard Kahui, Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua, Warrior Manu Vatuvei and Breakers captain Mika Vukona, as the major sports codes fight to stamp out sideline abuse.

A Massey University expert said there was something about children's sport that turned some parents into vitriolic spectators and some kids into angry, aggressive players.

Dennis Slade, a senior lecturer at Massey's school of sport and exercise, said they put aside what they would usually consider right and wrong. "When that Liverpool player turned around and bit the other player on the arm, or if you stomp on someone lying on the ground, you wouldn't normally do that in everyday society but in sport you can bracket your morality and all your ethics go out the window."

Slade runs role-plays for young players, in which some play four-a-side games of soccer while others act out roles on the sideline, such as critical coach or noisy parent.

Aggressive parents and coaches often had the reverse effect to what they intended: "There's the old attitude of 'smash em bro'. If they applaud that type of behaviour it induces high levels of stress."

Slade said the kids most likely to stick with a sport were those where the coach provided a fun learning environment. High-stress coaches tended to lose 25 per cent of their players each year whereas "fun" coaches lost only 5 per cent, irrespective of the teams' success.

- Herald on Sunday

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