Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby has taken a harsh stance on sideline abuse, cancelling an upcoming round of games due to recent incidents.
The union's club competition will not play their scheduled games this weekend, after "a couple of very serious incidents" during last weekend's games.
Speaking to Radio Ngāti Porou, the club's chief executive Cushla Tangaere-Manuel said the decision to not play the games this weekend was one the board felt was "absolutely necessary".
"By no means are we saying we want silence at every game. How boring would that be? However, we cannot condone physical violence and death threats," Tangaere-Manuel said.
"While specifics are being dealt with with those involved, we felt it was an opportunity for everyone to take a breather, review your internal processes ... this is not the behaviour we want in our 100th year of Ngāti Porou rugby."
While not delving into the specifics of each situation, Tangaere-Manuel indicated referee abuse and behaviour on the sidelines were at the heart of the incidents.
The extent to which referees are abused has been brought more into the light in recent years across a number of codes. Last year, a Manawatū footballer received a one-year ban for verbal and physical threatening behaviour towards a match official. In 2019, a Dunedin basketball referee raised concerns over how officials were treated by coaches and players and the flow on effect it had on the game and the number of people wanting to take up refereeing.
Tangaere-Manuel said while the referees at the local level may be people you know, they have all achieved the qualifications necessary to be in the role and should be treated as such.
"We have a very limited pool of referees," she said.
"They are qualified to be in the position they are in. Whether or not we like their calls, half the crowd will like them, half not. But it's not acceptable to abuse them to the point of threatening violence.
"What really hit home with one of the reports was the impact it has on referees' families and children. It was a really major impact for this referee involved and their family. It's supported by all the referees; this is what they're experiencing out there. We accept banter, we accept remarks, but threats toward them is not acceptable. We have to look after the pool we've got of these people who are willing to give up their Saturdays like many other volunteers involved in our game who keep it going."
Tangaere-Manuel said it wasn't just officials who were having bad experiences at local games, with some fans of the game also being turned off by the behaviour that can be displayed on the sidelines.
"It's becoming unbearable for some. We are losing some referees; we're even losing some spectators - people who don't want to go to games and listen to that carry on.
"What it's going to require is a complete effort from all of us involved. Our game should be somewhere you and your whole family want to be."