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Question Number: 32185

High School 1/21/2018

RE: High School High School

Trevor of Danville, Kentucky United States asks...

I have two long, drawn out, and debatable questions. Am EXTREMELY curious for answers. Here we go:

1.) After arguing with my friend (who plays soccer), my girlfriend (who used to play soccer), and a lawyer (who knows soccer rules and legal implications), I am curious to know under what legal constitute gives the referee of a high school boy's soccer game legal authority over fans, specifically the right to remove them (eject them) from a game, and charge them with a misdemeanor if they refuse? Now, I can understand the ref having authority to eject unruly players, coaches, and fans; but I witnessed a ref run up to the stands, pointed to the guy sitting right behind me, yell 'You! Leave!' and run off again. Now, this guy happened to be one of the loudest people there, but literally all of the fans on my team were yelling 'bad call' and 'you're gonna get these kids hurt!' In fact, I believe there was a mother being louder than this guy was. I remember hearing her say to her friend, 'I swear, if this ref makes a bad call and gets my kid hurt, he is gonna get a piece of my mind after this game!' Now, the guy did leave peacefully, but if I was in his shoes, I can honestly say I wouldn't have. He wasn't cussing the ref out. He wasn't being derogatory. He wasn't disrupting the game. If he was, then the ref should've asked every other fan that was there to leave as well (like I said before, everyone was yelling at the ref for making bad calls). After talking to a lawyer that I know, he said that in Kentucky, there is a statute that gives the ref the right to criminally charge a fan if they refuse to leave a sports game. But the ref doesn't work for the government. The police may be able to escort the guy out, but they do not answer to the ref. Yet, if the ref says so, they will escort a fan off the field and arrest them. How can they? Does the ref truly have a right to press criminal charges on a fan who refuses to leave, even if the fan didn't do anything to deserve being ejected?

2.) So in the first question, I mentioned I had a friend who played soccer for my high school. He told me that either the refs, coaches, or both (I can't remember exactly) check the players' underwear to make sure they are the same color as their uniform shorts. My friend says they are forced to pull the back of their pants down slightly to reveal the color of their underwear to the refs/coaches before every game. Now, there is no locker room near our soccer field, so they are forced to do this in front of all the fans, albeit on the other side of the field. This seems a little pervy to me and doesn't seem like a necessary rule (if it's real). This doesn't seem necessary to me since it's underwear. It's covered up by the shorts. I can understand if it's long underwear that goes all the way down to your feet, but if it's just boxers or briefs underneath your shorts, then why is it such a big deal and why is it a rule in soccer? I found an article on FOX Sports where 6 people were ejected from a high school boy's soccer game in the UK because some of the team's underwear were a different color, but that shouldn't matter if it's underneath the shorts. My main questions are: Is it a rule that a player's underwear must match their uniform shorts? If so, then why, since it's under their shorts? Also if this is true, then why are players' uniforms checked out in public and not in locker rooms? (Once again there are no locker rooms on our soccer fields). What if a player refuses to show the ref out of embarrassment and wants to go in a locker room? And finally, how is this not pervy? If I had kids, I would NEVER let them play a sport that required them to do this.

Thanks for answering these 2 questions. It means a lot to me and gives me closure for thoughts that have caused me to argue with my girlfriend and best friend over the past 6 months.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Trevor
Referee have no control over spectators. They only have control over the game and it's participants. However the referee can request the home coach / game manager for that ground facility to take action against spectators that are behaving in an unruly or irresponsible manner. Referees should not be acting like you describe by approaching spectators yet he should calmly go to the home team game manager and request that the identified person is removed for their behaviour. He has no powers to remove spectators yet he can terminate / suspend the game until it is sorted to his satisfaction
NFHS prides itself on sportsmanship and educational values in it sports. Players, coaches, game officials and spectators must use appropriate language and refrain from insulting, offensive and/or abusive language and gestures.
On your second question the rules define what apparel may be used and its color. Many player chose to wear undershirts and undershorts and they must be the same colour as the team kit. It is not underwear yet undershirts and shorts used as part of the kit. There is no requirement to pull down shorts to check colour and it is a simple instruction to players that if they have white shorts then under shorts that are visible must also be white. The rule states that * If visible apparel is worn under the jersey and/or shorts, it shall be of a similar length, all alike and of a solid color.*
The key word is IF VISIBLE so the referee has no concern nor should have coaches about the colour of undershirts/ undershorts that are not visible. It makes no difference if the equipment inspection is done outside or in the locker room. I suspect if anyone is doing what you suggest they are stepping well outside good practice and protocols for dealing with young players.
BTW the same rules apply to FIFA games. The referee is in control f the game and its participants. The home team is in control if its facility and who it allows to enter / stay is at its discretion.
Undershirts/ undershorts must be the same colour as the kit. A visible inspection is carried out with no requirement to pull down shorts etc. If not compliant a player is asked to comply either by removing the offending article or replacing it with a legal colour garment.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Trevor,
Not being from the USA I can't answer your first one.
For the benefit of any fellow Australians though, I know in Australia referees do have authority over spectators via the home club. While most soccer fields are on public parklands, when a club has the arrangement to hire the ground on the weekend that means they also have authority over who enters and leaves. So, the 'it's public property' excuse doesn't fly. From discussion with overseas colleagues, I believe it's the same in the UK. Of course it's even simpler for those clubs that actually own their own ground!

As for your second, the referee most certainly shouldn't be doing this and if this is occurring then a complaint needs to be submitted. If undershorts (eg bike shorts) are visible as being the wrong colour then that's where the issues lies. However, the law is intended to deal with the 'leg'. Whether underpants that may be seen above the waistband of the shorts if the shorts slip down are the wrong colour is simply not what the laws are about and not what the referee should be concerning themself with.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Trevor,
Your first question seems to revolve around the referee's legal right to both remove spectators and 'charge them with a misdemeanor.' As my colleagues have pointed out, the referee doesn't have direct authority over spectators but by convention (in the case of a game played under IFAB Laws) and as specifically mentioned in NFHS rules, can use the home team authorities to intervene in cases of spectator misbehaviour. I have not heard of a referee as an individual, having the legal right to charge people with misdemeanors but if they did have that authority then it would have to be (as you say your lawyer friend has mentioned) based on a legal statute, possibly a state one, though I have to say it would surprise me to learn of this. Now, several states in the US (21, according to one legal website I found) do have laws related to threatening behaviour specifically in relation to sports and a person could be charged under those laws but again, I would expect any such charges to come from the relevant legal authorities rather than directly from the referee.

For the second question, I would refer you to the responses already given by my respected colleagues.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

In high school soccer, there is to be a game manager at each game. Often, this game manager is the athletic director, assistant athletic director or assistant principal of the home team. Sometimes schools hire one of the faculty to be the game manager. This game manager has the authority to ask a fan to leave and can take other action such as calling the police if the fan does not leave when asked.

If a fan causes problems such as using inappropriate language or coming onto the field, the referee is to ask the game manager to take care of the situation. If the game manager cannot handle the situation and the problem continues the game could be terminated by the referee. The referee is not to go directly to the spectator as was done om the situation that you describe.

As to the underwear being checked, only visible undergarments are checked in high school play. Those are garments that extent beyond the sleeves of jerseys or the bottom of the shorts. As indicated in high school rule 4-1-d. 'If visible apparel is worn under the jersey or shorts, it shall be a solid color matching the predominant color of the respective garment.' I have never heard of non-visible underwear being checked in a high school game.

I hope that your team has a very successful season.

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