‘My under-10 matches are the worst’: no end in sight to youth referee abuse

While many acknowledge that the abuse and assault of referees is endemic in American sports culture, few people seem willing to do anything about it

Nearly every single day, a sports official becomes the victim of verbal abuse or physical assault. This isn’t just true of professional and collegiate referees – all of whom receive the protection of a security detail – but of the hundreds of thousands of referees who officiate youth and amateur recreational matches across the United States, many of whom are under 18 years of age.

In a detailed survey of over 17,000 referees conducted last year by the National Association of Sports Officials, 87% of respondents said that they had suffered from verbal abuse in their role as officials and 13% responded that they had been physically assaulted before, during, or after a game. That’s nearly one out of every seven officials.

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