Montreal soccer coach altercation sparks debate about equipping referees with body cameras
A recent altercation at a Montreal-area soccer game has people wondering whether referees should wear body cameras on the field.
The incident happened Saturday after witnesses say the coach of a Lakeshore female soccer team hurled insults at the referee, in front of dozens of teenage players and their parents.
"I told myself, he’s about to break his nose," said a parent who witnessed the incident, but didn't want to be identified because the dispute is still very much alive on social media.
The subject of intimidation is so sensitive that one of the teams involved in Saturday's dispute asked parents and volunteers not to talk about what happened.
The coach from Lakeshore was expelled from the game and later fired by the Lakeshore Soccer Club.
"The Lakeshore Soccer Club in no way condones any mistreatment of soccer officials and/or [aggressive] behaviour on the part of our coaching staff, and our players," reads a statement on the club's website. "The coach has been removed from their coaching duties with our club."
This comes just as the Ontario Soccer Association launched a pilot project to start handing out body cameras to referees, similar to the ones used by some police forces.
"The fact we have to put a camera on a referee doesn't bode very well as a statement to our society," said Johnny Misley, the head of Ontario Soccer.
The decision comes at a time when verbal and sometimes physical abuse by parents and coaches is the main reason why Soccer Ontario has lost 80 per cent of its soccer referees, a phenomenon that is spreading to other sports as well.
"Any tool that we can use to cut down on abuse is very important," said Matthew Bagazolli, vice-president of the Toronto Referees' Association.
But not everyone thinks it's a good idea, including Charlie Ghorayeb, who has coached basketball and football for 40 years in Montreal.
"I was a coach, I lost my temper, I've said things I've regretted, I've raised my voice," he said, adding that parents likely won't care if referees are wearing a body camera or not.
His solution? Referees need better training to learn how to deal with behaviours, not just the sport's rules and regulations.
"I think they need to grow a skin," Ghorayeb said.
But for the parent who witnessed Saturday's altercation, abusive coaches and adults simply don't belong on the field.
"It's as if people have lost all their filters," said the mother of two teenagers, including one who wanted to be a referee but who isn't so sure anymore.