Referee demands action after verbal attacks on daughter

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TULSA -- A referee is taking a stand against adult and student referee abuse.

Referee Brian Barlow and his family were in Norman, OK over the weekend for soccer tournaments. His 12-year-old daughter, Zoe, is learning the ropes of being a ref herself. However, she learned firsthand how officials are treated.

Brian Barlow said, “From what I understand, the parents lost control, the coaches lost control, and there were verbal insults made to kids that are 12, 23, and 15-years-old.”

One of those kids was Zoe. She said, “We made a call that was questionable, but it was a good call. We did a great job on it, but parents didn’t like it and thought it was the wrong call.”

The name-calling and berating started. The game was actually terminated because parents refused to cooperate.

Barlow said, “What was really troublesome is knowing that there we have kids that are trying to learn the skill of being a referee, and yet they’re in the middle of a cesspool of verbal insults by adults.”

The dad says it’s an epidemic that’s become the norm nationwide, adding, “As a dad, I was appalled. As a referee, it’s become the standard.”

So, that’s why this dad and ref wants to change that standard with a new initiative called “STOP,” which stands for Stop Tormenting Officials Permanently.

Barlow explained, “It basically holds the people accountable. The moment that they step onto the club or the complex, they now know that there are all kinds of signs out there, there are field marshals out there, there are systems in place that if referee abuse starts to happen, it’s immediately resolved.”

And part of the initiative protects young referees, like Zoe, who may have a hard time controlling angry parents and coaches.

Barlow said, “That’s just one of the systems in place to help retain young referees and also to help coaches understand, ‘Hey, maybe I’ve done enough. I have to realize these are kids. We’re coaching kids. It is a game. We’re supposed to be in it for the development and the spirit of the game.”

The STOP initiative is in the works for hundreds of clubs and organizations around the country and will be implemented here at the Bixby Soccer Club this weekend.

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