Where is the respect?

As we came off the rugby pitch today, my son asked me about a situation, and he got very angry about it. I realised I was extremely angry about it too. So I decided to blog about it. I know most of my readers aren’t touchline parents, but I would be grateful for your views. Is this really an acceptable way for an adult with responsibility for children, even 12 and 13 year olds, to behave?!

It was one of those days you really didn’t want to be watching rugby. When I left the house it was relatively warm and sunny. I very nearly forgot to put my thermal base layers on. I had no hat, no proper coat (only a gilet) and no waterproof trousers. In the time it took us to cross to the other side of town, the wind whipped up and it started raining. It was cold and miserable.

I was watching my eldest’s team (under 13s). I usually watch my younger son, always have done, and my husband watches my eldest. I don’t like the aggression and danger of watching the older boys, although even the under 10s are getting pretty scary now.

It was part way through the second half. My son, whose legs were red raw with the cold, because the idiot poor kid hadn’t had the sense to take any warm, dry clothes with him, had only just gone on the pitch (that’s what happens when you let your kids take responsibility for their own kit). A kid went down. Kids go down a lot in rugby, my younger son being a prime example When a kid goes down, the ref should stop the game.

‘Ref, ref,’ shouted a dad by me.


‘Ref, ref, there’s a kid down.’

Still nothing.

More parents started shouting.

Still nothing.

The boy didn’t move. He didn’t get up and walk off crying or shed a few tears then bravely soldier on, like they usually do.

The coach went over and sat with him. Then the other coach took a coat over to cover him.

And still the ignorant ref played on.

I’m not exaggerating to say it was five minutes before the ref stopped the game.

The dad who’d first called him did a slightly sarcastic clap. Nothing wrong with that, under the circumstances.

Did the ref go over to check the injured boy?

No. He came marching over to the dad to give him a mouthful of abuse and sarcastically hand him the whistle to see if he could do a better job of refereeing the game. He called him an effing twat in front of other parents, the kids and younger brothers and sisters, before finally going to check on the injured kid.

An ambulance car came. The two teams went and quietly occupied themselves. More people gathered around the kid and shielded him with umbrellas and more coats. Then a real ambulance came.

After half an hour, the freezing, soaking kids were sent home. The boy was still on the ground. We saw him stretchered off as we drove past on the way home. I am praying that he is OK, but I’m feeling a little scared. Scared for a child I don’t even know, because that’s what parents do.

So how is the ref feeling? What do you think? He wouldn’t have known how badly the boy was hurt, but is it ever acceptable for an adult with responsibility for kids to talk like that? And is it acceptable for him to put his own anger before an inured child?

Where is the respect in kids’ sport?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Sarah, that’s really shocking. As a cricket coach, I know that seeing a child get injured is chilling. You can never tell immediately how bad it is, but if they’re on the ground you get to them as quickly as you can. That referee’s behaviour is extraordinary. You might want to find out what report your club is putting into the local league to make sure it covers all aspects of the incident. If it doesn’t, you should ask questions of the club. If the league gets the full picture it should be that referee’s final game.

    After my older son’s football match this morning, I’m asking the same question you end your piece with. We had boys fighting, a father shouting to his son to get stuck in, then parents screaming at each other. I’m waiting to see if our club can put its ‘Respect’ policy into practice. If not, I’ll be spending less of my time on that touch line.

    I hope your son doesn’t feel too exposed and let down by the official at that game. Their first role is to protect and that referee failed.

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  2. Absolutely not and for that performance, sure he should be banned from ever refereeing again? If he hasn’t been, you should campaign for it. I’m not sure if I’m more angry about him ignoring the child or being verbally abusive to the adult and swearing in front of the kids. Totally unacceptable behaviour.

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  3. I’d be furious too. The whistle needs to be blown on that ref. That ref needs to be banned. Period.

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  4. The ref was unprofessional, reckless and completely out of order. The safety of the players should always be his main priority. The fact that he then went on to berate a parent? Completely unacceptable. For the safety of the players this referee should be suspended with immediate effect.

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  5. Report them to the equivalent of the FA, that’s appaling

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  6. Gosh that sounds awful. Now I know that being a referee can be a tough job and they can get a lot of abuse, but that is inexcusable under the circumstances. Whether or not the child was down, he shouldn’t react like that in front of the kids and to ignore the fact that there was a player injured like that is really really poor. I worry about my two playing rugby as it is so common for nasty injuries so I hope that the kid is okay.

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  7. Oh my god that’s terrible of the ref. I know that it’s really hard for them to see things from all angles but when a kid is down for more than a minute or so his alarm bell should have rung very very loudly. If I was that kids mum I would have gone absolutely mental on him in blind rage I think. I hope that boy is ok and that ref is severalt dealt with.

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  8. OMG thats utterly disgusting! playing hockey and having at least one injury in a match our ump’s always always stop the game and clear the pitch if someone is down on the ground. Its curtsey and it the right thing to do!

    I would be reporting your ref to the governing body with a list of witnesses!

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  9. Thanks very much for your supportive comments, everyone. I really appreciate them.
    I am still upset about it, but I’m pleased to say the boy was discharged from hospital.
    It’s harder for me because I’m not really a part of that team, to speak up. Husband says it should be the coach, but the coach was on the pitch, he wouldn’t have heard the swearing! Although he certainly witnessed the negligence.
    It wasn’t a league or cup game, so the ref was ‘only’ one of the coaches of the other team (therefore a dad). I forgot to say that another of their coaches gave the dad abuse too! (Although he later apologised, the ref never did.)
    Touchline Dad – disgusted to hear about that behaviour at your football match too.

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  10. OMG that is terrible! Hope the child is ok. I certainly would be putting in a complaint if I were there.

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  11. ooh that is terrible. Any ref at any level of any sport should stop a game as soon as it is apparent there is a serious injury. And by following it up with a swear filled rant at a parent in hearing range of children, it just doubles my belief that he shouldnt be reffing anyone, let alone kids.

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  12. I’m really shocked by this – we are cricket parents, but my eldest used to play rugby and was once rushed to hospital with a head injury, so I know how frightening these situations can be. Your club should have a dedicated person in charge of child welfare, and I would make an official request to them to take this further with the relevant organisation (or get him to tell you how to officially make a complaint about the referee).

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  13. Just speaking with my husband (who also referees rugby matches) who says even if it wasn’t a cup or a league game, it would still absolutely fall under the RFU’s mandate to take action about this, and that they would want to know about it. One of the coaches present should have already reported what happened to the RFU – but in your shoes I would check.

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  14. well I know who the twat is and it’s not the dad on the touchline! If it were my child I would have ran on the pitch screaming like a banshee! x

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  15. Thank you all again. So would I have done, Natasha! But I felt quite powerless as I don’t normally even watch my eldest’s rugby, so I’m not really a part of that team.
    Clare – your comments are really helpful. I was assuming the manager has reported it, but you’re right, I should check.

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