SANDY, Utah — A new policy from the Utah Youth Soccer Association will protect their referees while on the field.
The new zero tolerance policy is in regard to any inappropriate behavior towards referees and goes into effect immediately.
The announcement coming as the organization is dealing with a shortage of referees.
"Every year we lose referees," said Bryan Attridge, CEO of Utah Youth Soccer Association.
That shortage, Attridge says, is causing the cancellation of many youth games last year.
"We had to cancel more games than we never canceled before, over 500 games that we had to cancel due to a shortage, in referees," said Attridge.
Attridge said they have 60,000 kids playing on 1,800 teams across the state. Those kids, ages 9 through 19 play in 7,000 games from March through the end of May.
However, Attridge explained they have just 2,000 referees to handle all those games, and need about 2,500 or more to not have additional cancellations.
The shortage, Attridge said, also comes from how the refs are treated while on the field.
"We get coaches who are upset about calls and about the way the game is going, and we get parents and sidelines who, who go from being productive and positive and cheering for their kids to only yelling at the referee," said Attridge.
Which is why the Utah Youth Soccer Association rolled out the no tolerance policy last week.
The police outlines that any coach, parent or spectator who berates a referee would result in no spectators being allowed on the sideline for that team for the remainder of the spring season.
In order to enforce the policy, referees assigned to a particular game will be told that a certain team is not allowed to have spectators. Those spectators wouldn't be allowed within 100 yards of the field. Not following the rule could result in a forfeit, according to the policy.
"We're asking the referees to show up to the game, knowing that, that they have this protection from us," said Attridge.
So far, the UYSA says the response has been pretty positive.
"We got an email just before coming out here that from our Utah state referee committee that this weekend of games was already such a huge positive change for the referees who had matches," said Jen Rader, Marketing & Media Manager for the Utah Youth Soccer Association.
It is a change the organization hopes will continue moving forward.
"There's a level of respect that everyone needs to have, for our referees, for the players, for each other at the game," said Attridge.
The Utah Soccer Referees Association said Monday they are both grateful and appreciative of the support that comes with the Utah Youth Soccer Association's policy, which will allow the referees, most of whom are under the age of 17, to learn the game and improve as they go along.