This weekend was the opening round of the State tournament for all of the pay to play clubs. As usual, there was a pre-tournament referee meeting where we went over points of emphasis, house rules, substitution rule changes, and administrative requirements. Then there is a special subject lecture at the end. Last year it was an exhortion for us to be more aware of persistant infringement, the year before we talked about concussions, and the year before that, we went in depth on tactical fouls at the mid field. This year’s special subject lecture was an expansion of the automatic cards for talking.
The general rule of thumb for youth ball on trash talking is that we as referees want to minimize it. The more specific rule of thumb has cards coming out for anything that is likely to piss the other team off if it is not directly related to play. For instance, a Blue player telling a White player “Great left foot” after a shank is probably okay, but “Great left foot idiot” is at least public word by the referee if not that and a yellow. Traditionally anything sexual or racial will be at least a yellow card with an ass chewing but far more often a straight red for taunting in high school rules or foul and abusive language. The abusive language does not have to be English for a red card to be issued and backed by the appeals board. I have functional red card vocubularies in five languages and three English dialects where if I hear a word or combination, I’m going back pocket as the intent is there.
So that is where we’ve stood with language for years. The goal is to stop the fight before it starts. And then it changed. Anything sexual, anything racial is still a big No-No, but there was an addition — and that was economic class. Anything about money should now be considered half a step below calling someone a slut or a faggot in our immediate reaction.
This is needed. The pay to play clubs tend to be upper middle class dominated. It is not uncommon for a team of eighteen players to have sixteen full price players, a half fee player and a fully sponsored player. Between club fees, equipment, travel and extra training sessions, top tier club ball costs a family $5,000 to $10,000 per player per year (one of the many reasons why the US game has not developed enough on the international level). There is a local club which is a rich guy’s hobby where the average player’s family is lower middle class. The families pay for cleats and shin guards while the club covers everything else including travel.
There are serious class issues on the field, and it has gotten to the point where fights are getting started and retaliatory take your knee out tackles have occurred that we need to look at class in the same light as insults about race and sex….