Concern at treatment of referees

A leading Dunedin basketball referee has raised concerns over abuse of officials and its flow-on effects in the sport.

Lachie Robertson said a systemic problem existed in which senior players and coaches took things "way too far''.

He added it was influencing referee involvement and the quality of officiating.

Basketball Otago acknowledged in its latest annual report the sport remained one where players and coaches could become "loud and abusive''.

It was something it was looking to remove from the game.

As the season concludes, several Dunedin referees backed the statement.

Robertson (24), a club A grade referee who is moving to Wellington after six years in Dunedin, felt it had become ingrained in the sport.

He said BBO made a good effort to support its referees given the resources it had available.

The onus was on everyone to help fix the problem.

"I think it's on everyone involved to take a step back and look at what's going on - realise that it's not right,'' he said.

"If you want referees to develop and get better, you've got to be a part of that as well.

"It'll mean a large proportion of players and coaches putting their self-interest aside for a second and actually growing as coaches and players.

"Understanding referees are doing their best and if they want better referees in the future it has to start with a bit of slack, a bit of understanding of that point of view.''

Robertson, who also educates younger referees in secondary school basketball, felt there was a lack of understanding from players.

In some cases, that was not understanding the rules.

In others, it was not understanding a referee's perspective.

That led to frustration.

Referees were yelled at and disparaging remarks were regularly made towards them.

While communication was fine, many took that too far.

Getting yelled at made junior referees go into their shells and deliver a worse performance.

Saying it was part of refereeing was not helping.

Robertson had seen plenty of talented young officials reach a certain level, then get abused.

Eventually they would quit.

That left players and coaches in a worse position - it decreased the level of officiating further.

The youngsters would remain in the game in other areas.

Robertson said referees developed with experience, just as players did.

Many were not getting that exposure, as they were getting abused while they were learning. That led to fewer referees reaching the top level.

It also led to fewer referees overall to cover the same number of games.

The impacts went beyond the game.

Abuse had left Robertson replaying games in his head for days afterwards.

He would be stressed and anxious in day-to-day life and was not alone.

Another A-grade referee, first-year student Brittney Young, dubbed the treatment in the men's club leagues as "pretty unacceptable''.

Referees did their best and she said bad calls were similar to a player missing an open layup.

She agreed getting abused was a major reason less experienced referees quit.

BBO chairwoman Angela Ruske said referee abuse was something the board took seriously.

While unaware of specific events this season, she had recently heard of a few referees quitting citing verbal abuse.

The board was not directly involved in handling that - there was a referees' committee.

BBO was trying to stay updated and would assess if there was anything that could be done from a governance level to help.

It was not purely a Dunedin problem - last week, Waikato Basketball put a post on Facebook addressing the issue.

  • Jeff Cheshire coaches at the Andy Bay Falcons.


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