Referee critically injured after punch from soccer player, police say

Published: Tuesday, April 30 2013 9:25 a.m. MDT

Shawn Halladay is the state disciplinary chairman for the Referee Association. He has been refereeing soccer matches since 1980 and concurs the number of times a player attacks a referee is rare.

"It is rare. As a referee, you always hear jokes about backing your car in so you can make a quick escape. But (an attack on the) field, extremely rare," he said.

Halladay has been confronted twice after a game by players, and was kicked by a player during one of those confrontations. The last time he remembers a referee being hit in his league was five years ago. But Halladay said the verbal abuse that referees take each game, either from players or parents watching their children play, has remained.

"Most of it is parents, 40-year-old men verbally abusing and threatening 15-year-old referees in youth games. What concerns me is that behavior gets translated. Kids see their parents acting that way and they think it's their right and some just take it a step beyond," he said.

Halladay said even at Real Salt Lake games, children watch their parents yell at referees because they believe they are entitled to do so.

"(They think) it's my right to abuse this person, it doesn't matter if it's a kid or man or woman, they just abuse. And at some point it has to have an effect on the kids."

Unified police are asking for eyewitnesses, or people who may have filmed Saturday's incident on their cellphones, to call them at 801-743-5913.

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