FULLERTON, CA (November 22, 2021) – Cal South’s Respect Campaign is an ongoing initiative to improve the overall soccer environment for all its members – players, coaches, parents, referees, administrators, staffers – by emphasizing an atmosphere of mutual respect and acceptance amongst all. The Respect Campaign initiative aligns directly with the goals of Cal South’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council, previously announced in July 2021.

As part of this initiative, in light of some recent alarming events involving referee abuse during and around matches, we present this message from Cal South’s State Referee Administrator, Juan Guzman, Jr.:

“With the recent rise during this fall season in referee complaints and referee abuse throughout our soccer community, we want to take a moment to appreciate our referees throughout Southern California. We are currently suffering a great shortage of referees nationally. Recruitment and retention of match officials at all levels is negatively impacted by the twin horrors of referee abuse and referee assault.

“I ask you to watch this brief video from a very recent youth match in Northern California. The video is shocking, but such behavior is swiftly becoming all too common. Ask yourself: Could this one day be yourself or someone in your club acting this way?”

“Our referees are certified, properly trained and approved to referee on the field. They are dedicated to their craft and passionate about the sport of soccer. But in that same regard, we are also as imperfect as human beings as anyone else on the field.

“Referee decisions are made in real time. On the pitch, especially at the local level, there is no replay to be used; there is no slow motion nor are there multiple angles from which to replay a moment and possibly reverse a call. And what one person may believe they have seen from one angle might look entirely different to someone else. Referees do their best to be as on top of a play as they can. The referee has to rely on what is seen in front of them, most calls are subjective in nature and application of the Laws of the Game. Consistency in any discretionary role is a virtue, though it may seem impossible at times.

“So, does referee abuse come from someone standing 50 yards away and often at a disadvantageous angle from the play? Is it tempered by personal bias towards one’s child or team and against any opponent or official seen as impeding their success? Does it come from someone who may not have any referee training or experience under their belt, and is perhaps a little too caught up in the heat and thrill of a match? The reasons could involve these and many more such factors, but we must remind ourselves that this sport that we love is just a game. Yes, there are collegiate and professional levels to it ultimately, but at the base of soccer, it is simply a game.

“In Cal South, the bulk of those games are contested by teams of children. Because of this, referees must focus first on keeping its players safe and each game fair. Good communication with coaches and players prior to the game is key. And safety and respect for all must be key to any game.

“I also implore our referees to always remember that humility is a strength. Authoritative, unresponsive, card-happy referees are not accepted any longer in our soccer community. Coaches that don’t support our referees when dealing with spectator abuse are not accepted in our soccer community either. Yelling, obnoxious parents that have no concept of how to dissect a play with criteria and with the extensive knowledge of the Laws of the Game are likewise not accepted in our soccer community.

“Let’s begin the process of understanding each other. Let’s begin to communicate with each other and talk about the challenges and reasons why we give up our weekends to be out on a soccer field. I bear witness that our fears and our passions for soccer are all the same. To everyone involved with this wonderful, beautiful game that we all love… let’s all smile out on the pitch every once in a while, and remember, this is supposed to be fun.

“Pledge to stand with us in our call for RESPECT to and from everyone on and off the field. Let’s grow soccer together and make it a safe place for all participants.

“Remember referees are human. Please stop yelling at us… we hear you. Let’s move on with the game.

“May the ball roll kindly for you.”

Juan Guzman, Jr.

Former US Soccer Federation FIFA Referee
Former Major League Soccer Referee
Cal South State Referee Administrator