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Abuse of SASG officials surfaces at recreation board meeting

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Taber Times

There was plenty of goodwill to go around at the 2013 Southern Alberta Summer Games earlier this year in Taber. The hugely successful event that drew thousands of athletes and their families to Taber in July showcased exactly what the spirit of the Games should be for the most part. But, it was uncovered at the Taber Recreation Board’s November meeting, in the Games final report, that good will turned ill in some cases when it came to the way officials were treated in some cases in the soccer and ball hockey events by some teams. There was also an incident during a Taber Minor Soccer game, in which a player assaulted a referee, this past season.

An issued Southern Alberta Recreation Association report viewed possible methods of addressing the issue in the future is through coaches meetings and having SARA members to be even more visible and on site. Also to revise the Code of Conduct document to add a line that a sports chair or SARA member may pause a game for coaches to get their fans and players under control or call a game.

“There is a code of conduct with Alberta Soccer and it’s very strict on that. It’s there and you have to be a member of the Alberta Soccer Association in order to play. You can say here it is, here are the laws, if you don’t like it, see ya,” said Luke Wijna, chairman of the Taber Recreation Board, during its meeting last Thursday, adding in the 37 years he refereed soccer, he has not seen the abuse of officials like he sees today. “It’s absolutely ridiculous what is happening. There is a code of conduct already, so don’t try and do something new that may allow this to go on. If you don’t like it, don’t play.”

Aline Holmen, leisure services manager for the Town of Taber acknowledged the abuse is going on far past the Southern Alberta Games where younger, new officials to the Games can be targeted where they do not have the experience in dealing with abusive fans, players or coaches, which can have a spillover affect in losing carded officials where they see the abuse is not worth it.

“You are seeing it at the local level as well and what steps are they taking to mitigate that as well? It’s opening lines of communication,” said Holmen.

“It’s the parents who are ruining the game for the young refs,” added Wijna. “That’s why you don’t see any young refs coming up in soccer. We have these (refing) courses every year and every year we lose refs because they are not going to put up with the crap that is happening on the sidelines be it local or provincial play. It is up to the ref to control the game on the field and off of it and they have to be given that support by various associations.”

New recreation board member Andrew Prokop who has experience as a hockey referee added he would give players and coaches an initial warning of how he would run a game and if people repeatedly would abuse his warnings he would toss them out of the game.

“I think a lot of teams get a feel for your refing style and test the waters. You set that precedent right out of the gate and then you have that control,” said Prokop.

Recreation boar member Garrett Simmons acknowledged language levels are different at different sports where the language can get pretty blue in hockey where it’s tolerated more than in other sports.

But as a sports chair of the ball hockey in question at 2013’s Southern Alberta Summer Games, he cautioned people have to remember the spirit in which the Games were founded in the first place in which it was a way for families to come together for exercise and healthy living.

“To me, what the Southern Alberta Recreation Association has to do, is come back to all these associations and say this is an event for fun. We are not winning provincial titles here,” said Simmons. “In ball hockey, we had teams taking it like it was the Stanley Cup and we had referees that were getting verbally abused and teams that were getting verbally abused. And soccer, it’s Summer Games for crying out load. It’s not that serious. We almost had coaches get in fights in Raymond for U12 soccer. That is not the intent or spirit of the Summer Games. Every single town that is involved in this has to be told, if they don’t understand this, they are not welcome to the Summer Games, take a hike.”

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