In the Spotlight: U.S. Soccer's referee assault policy

The incident involving U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey in overtime of the Seattle Sounders' U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers didn't just involve the issuance of a red card that would carry a suspension for the Sounders' next Open Cup game. It might fall under the purview of U.S. Soccer's referee assault policy that carries mandatory suspensions across all soccer activities.

The key issues:

1. Did Dempsey's actions to take the notepad from referee Daniel Radford and rip it up constitute referee assault?
2. Did Dempsey's actions in leaving the field constitute referee abuse?
3. Do those actions constitute separate offenses with cumulative punishments?
4. Do Open Cup matches fall under the definition of "Professional League Member activities"?

If so:

For referee assault, Dempsey faces a ban for the Sounders' next six official games. That ban would preclude him from playing in any soccer match -- eg. for the USA in the USA-Guatemala friendly or at the Gold Cup -- during those games.

Adrain Hanauer on ... Tuesday night

It should be noted that the ban would take effect after a decision has been reached, which the Sounders expect to be made before this weekend.

Sounders' Schedule:
June 20 -- San Jose
June 24 -- at Philadelphia
June 27 -- at Portland
July 3 -- D.C. United
July 11 -- at Chicago
July 18 -- Colorado

Policy 202(1)(H)-2
Section 1. Misconduct against referees may occur before, during and after a match, including
travel to and from a match.

Section 2. All Professional League Members shall adopt and enforce policies prohibiting
misconduct against referees that meet the following minimum criteria:

(a) Referee Assault.
(1) Any player, coach, manager, club official, or league official who commits an
intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee (“Referee Assault”) shall
be suspended without pay for a period of at least six consecutive matches (the
“Assault Suspension”). The Assault Suspension shall commence with the first
match after which the individual has been found to have committed this act.
(2) For purposes of this subparagraph 2(a), “Referee Assault” shall include, but is
not limited to: striking, kicking, choking, grabbing or bodily running into a
referee; spitting on a referee with ostensible intent to do so; kicking or throwing
an object at an official that could inflict injury; or damaging the referee’s uniform
or personal property (e.g., car, uniform, or equipment).
(3) The Professional League Member may not provide for a penalty shorter than
the Assault Suspension but may provide for a longer suspension and/or a fine.

(b) Referee Abuse.
(1) Any player, coach, manager, club official, or league official who threatens
through a physical act or verbal statement, either explicitly or implicitly, a referee
(“Referee Abuse”) shall be suspended for a period of at least three consecutive
matches (the “Abuse Suspension”). The Abuse Suspension shall commence with
the first match after which the individual has been found to have committed this
(2) For purposes of this subparagraph 2(b), “Referee Abuse” shall include, but is
not limited to: verbal and nonverbal communication which contains foul or
abusive language and which implies or directly threatens physical harm; spewing
a beverage on or spitting at a referee or the referee’s personal property.
(3) The Professional League Member may not provide for a penalty shorter than
the Abuse Suspension but may provide for a longer suspension and/or a fine.

(c) Referee. For purposes of this section 2, a “referee” shall include the referee,

assistant referees, and fourth official.

(d) Match. For purposes of the Assault Suspension and the Abuse Suspension, a

“match” shall mean any official match of that individual’s team in the Professional
League Member for which there is paid attendance, i.e., regular season, playoff, officially
sanctioned cups and tournaments, and international games played in the United States.

Section 3. This policy shall apply only to players, coaches, managers, club officials, or league
officials while participating in Professional League Member activities. The Assault Suspension
and Abuse Suspension (the “Suspension”) shall preclude the suspended individual from
participating in any soccer competition until the suspension has expired.

18 comments about "In the Spotlight: U.S. Soccer's referee assault policy".
  1. Amos Annan, June 19, 2015 at 8:36 a.m.

    Excessive application in this case. Only soccer requires such severe punishment for trivial matters.

  2. Georges Carraha, June 19, 2015 at 9:42 a.m.

    Clint should be banned for the entire season and we need to send a message to the entire country that such actions in sports are UNACCEPTABLE. Professionals should behave in a certain way and if we failed to take serious actions, don't blame the children to doing the same.
    This is not about soccer but about RESPECT! Burn the sucker!

  3. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, June 19, 2015 at 10:54 a.m.

    Amos Annan is right, Georges Carraha is wrong. The point is not respect but protection of the referees. Grabbing his book and ripping it up is a petulant, childish act, but is no physical threat to the referee's safety. Let's not over-react yet again.

  4. Joe Linzner, June 19, 2015 at 11:07 a.m.

    OK, Dempsey did act petulant and childish, he did not physically hurt the referee and unquestionably must be reprimanded.
    However, what are a referee's responsibilities? How did this incident happen, how did the referee let such discord fester to such a point. It is sad that the game degenerated into a state untenable to the parties involved.....I find it incredible that only one side is being castigated.. referees quite often have only themselves to blame for way to many a rough play and often terrible calls and not demanding control of a game. Not only the players are responsible for their actions but those in charge of the rules as well......

  5. Kenneth Cabral, June 19, 2015 at 11:27 a.m.

    Dempsey should suffer a serious consequence for his actions. It appears that our society is becoming too tolerant of inappropriate behavior not only in sports, but in society in general. As the saying goes; you do the crime, you do the time. In this case a long term (6 game) suspension for all competitions and a $5,000 fine would be appropriate.

  6. d m, June 19, 2015 at 11:33 a.m.

    US Soccer and MLS need to take control of this. Some may think it's the referee's fault for making/not making certain calls that players think are incorrect, but not every player behaves with such arrogance and disrespect as Dempsey did. And it's not the first time he's shown his temper. An example needs to be set, just as they did with Brian Mullan with that 10 game suspension when he injured the opponent with a dangerous tackle. Or when Alan Gordon got a 3 game suspension for calling an opponent an offensive name in the heat of the moment. And especially because Dempsey is such an important player to his team and the MNT will the punishment resonate. Will it hurt the US's chances in the Gold Cup? Maybe. But while he sits and watches the games from his comfy sofa at home, he can think about his stupid actions and aim to keep his temper under control. (Makes me wonder if he flies off the handle when one of his kids misbehaves or talks back).

  7. Tom H, June 19, 2015 at 1:35 p.m.

    There are responsibilities all professionals, especially one who is also a NMT captain, should display. They are an example for others. True, no physical injury to this referee occurred but if such behavior were emulated by others & escalated?? We can't afford to forget Ricardo Portillo or John Bieniewicz.

  8. Bill Bowman, June 19, 2015 at 1:49 p.m.

    A two game suspension is sufficant to send a message to Dempsey as no physical harm was done to the referee. Some action must be had by MLS or this disrespect of game officials will certainly continue.

  9. Barry Thomas, June 19, 2015 at 1:58 p.m.

    My prediction: slap on the wrist for Dempsey (i.e., no more than for any other red card). My desire: six-match suspension, just as the regs call for. Such behavior by a high-profile DP and USMNT captain should not be minimized. Klinnsman should also strip him of his captaincy for such immature behavior. This is not Chile.

  10. Raymond Weigand, June 19, 2015 at 5:26 p.m.

    "...damaging the referee’s uniform
    or personal property (e.g., car, uniform, or equipment)." Clint decided to destroy personal property. It seems the idea is to blame Clint's own actions on the actions of others (referee should have done this or that, etc). I thought Clint was showboating for his teammates - showing solidarity - however, he didn't really think about the consequences. As this is not professional wrestling - I wouldn't want the entertainment factor to trump the rights of the referees. Obviously he is not going to be ripping up any more notebooks or clapping into the face of any more AR's in future matches ... but there should be sufficient closure - weighted enough to discourage any future referee bullying.

  11. Ric Fonseca, June 19, 2015 at 7:42 p.m.

    One possible way to teach the players about the Laws of the Game is to have them officiate some youth and high school games, and even some college games. I know for a fact that about 90% of the players, although skill full and know how to play the game, they do not know the very basics of the LoG. For example, when I coached at my college, early in the pre-season - any player trying out, new and returning, had to sit through several of my lectures on the LoG; I even invited some well and highly respected referees, assessors and instructors, but you know what, it wasn't just 90% of my players, but all of the players were ignorant of the LoG! So, if the US Soccer and NSCAA Coaching courses have only a few hours on the LoG in their curriculum, so too, should players also be required to attend clinics, lectures, and then take the field and officiate a game. Then PERHAPS we can see that the childlish and petulant Dempseys, Neymars, Messi, Gordons, Keanes, et al, would be more appreciative of the game officials. Laslty, after having watched Dempsey for several years now, it was only time before he got his game shorts in a knot and displayed such behavior unbecoming of his player status!

  12. Ric Fonseca, June 19, 2015 at 7:46 p.m.

    I forgot to add that after having to attend the lectures on the LoG, my players had a much more better understanding and appreciation not only about the LoG, but of the work the game officials, and interestingly, my college teams were the least carded and became more disciplined on the field. Don't get me wrong, we did have our share of yellow and
    red cards, for which the offending player had to review the LoG, and do some local youth and club games.

  13. Georges Carraha, June 19, 2015 at 11 p.m.

    For those watching, Neymar was just suspended fir the rest of the Copa America for abusing the Referee (not physical). Enough talk and punish Dempsey to the fullest. In my entire life of playing and watching soccer, i have never seen any player taking and destroying a Referee's book.

  14. Ginger Peeler, June 20, 2015 at 6:09 a.m.

    Ric, you are so right! Brilliant idea! Require each player to study TLOTG. And then have them ref games to see what it's like from the other side, starting as ARs and working up to CRs. All coaches should do the same and EVERY ONE of our play-by-play and color commentators! That's so logical, it'll probably never happen.

  15. beautiful game, June 20, 2015 at 12:05 p.m.

    The officials take too much abuse from players; time to revisit the high school rule, cursing is an automatic ejection. When the laws of the game are not enforced, than don't expect player behavior to be acceptable. Deuce et al is an example of repeated bad behavior which went unpunished.

  16. Michael Saunders, June 22, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

    Mr. Linzer you sound just like the many men who justify their physical and mental abuse of women because of the actions of their spouses or girlfriends. Blaming the victim is not a plausible defense. Indeed, the data regarding violence to officials in sports confirm that justifying this kind of behavior enables further violence. Get a grip!

  17. Charles Stamos, June 22, 2015 at 2:22 p.m.

    Ric - I agree with your philosphy. In any sport, you create better players when they know the rules and have worked the game as a player, coach and arbeiter. In my dreams/nightmares, I always thought that the hardest game to referee would be a grude match between referees and coachs/players because the refs would know how to get away with the dirty fouls that cause the game to fall into direpute.

  18. Santiago 1314, June 22, 2015 at 3:23 p.m.

    @ Ric, ... Sounds like a "No BRAINER"...But then, We're Soccer players and have No Brain Cells, Because of all the Heading. ..Jajaja. .

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