Editorial: Our sports fields are no place for abuse
EDITORIAL: Some of what happened on the sidelines of the children's football match abandoned with five minutes to play at Melrose two Saturdays ago is still in dispute.
David Adams, the Waterside Karori parent who was refereeing the 11th-grade game, says the coach of the rival Island Bay team told him he was going to "f...... kill" him if his team lost. The coach in question, Jan Chmielewski, denies making the threat. He was, he says, "Mr PC that day".
However, Mr Chmielewski has admitted enough about his conduct to establish that he is not a suitable person to coach 10- and 11-year-olds. The Island Bay club should find a replacement coach. If it declines to do so Capital Football should bar the team from future participation in its competitions.
Mr Chmielewski's conduct was utterly unacceptable. Among the things he has admitted to are calling a female spectator a "moaning bitch" and telling the referee "when I was two inches from his face" he was "f...... me off".
He has also acknowledged that Island Bay supporters "mildly bantered" Mr Adams throughout the second half while trying to create a "Yellow Fever-type atmosphere". He seems perplexed that anyone could take offence at such behaviour.
"What kind of referee doesn't have a thick skin?"
The answer is a great many of those who volunteer their time to enable children to discover the joy of physical competition.
An 11th-grade match at Sinclair Park in Melrose is not an A-league contest at Westpac Stadium. The parents who referee children's games are not paid for their efforts and for the most part are not seeking to progress through refereeing ranks. They are simply helping out so that their kids can have a run-around on a Saturday morning. They do not deserve to be abused from the sidelines and their children should not have to listen to that abuse.
The face-to-face confrontation between Mr Adams and Mr Chmielewski came after Mr Adams's 10-year-old son Sam ran from the field in tears as a result of the comments directed at his father. That is not something any child should have to hear or any parent should have to put up with.
Kids' sport should be about the kids. The most important part of it is that children have fun. If they do they will keep playing. Ultimately that benefits the sport. The broader the playing base the greater the chances of talent emerging.
Mr Chmielewski is not alone in crossing the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable on the sidelines. Abuse of referees is an increasingly common feature of sport. The trend is particularly apparent in football, with spectators and players mimicking the behaviour of highly paid professionals.
However, if football wishes to continue to prosper it should consider the messages it wishes to send both to young players and the volunteers who are the lifeblood of any sport. Who wants to help out if it means being subjected to a torrent of abuse, or worse?
The Dominion Post