What began as a routine football match at Broadbeach Soccer Club ended with physical altercations involving the crowd, referees locked in their rooms for safety and the ejection of a team from the Coast League competition.
The infamous match between underdogs Mudgeeraba and first-placed Broadbeach in June has thrown a light on a negative culture of abuse towards officials and led to calls for the football community to examine its behaviour.
Mudgeeraba was overtaken by Broadbeach in the closing moments, losing 2-1, with two Mudgeeraba players receiving red cards for aggressive dissent.
Spectators hurled abuse from the bleachers as the full-time whistle blew, and that’s when the real drama began.
Geoff Tallintyre, the Referee Appointment Officer at Football Gold Coast, the federating body of the region, was the 1st Assistant Referee at the match.
“This was hands down my worst experience as a referee and possibly football in over 50 years,” Tallintyre said.
“Upon full-time, being the most senior of referees, I took charge and raced to the middle to escort the centre referee off the field safely along with the ground officials.
“With this all happening, members of the crowd hurled abuse from the clubhouse upper tiers, whilst Mudgeeraba players swarmed the referees, pushing and shoving, with spits flying and death threats at their worst.”
Fearing for their safety, the referee team were forced to lock themselves into their dressing rooms for the next half-an-hour.
“The other assistant referee was a young girl who was in absolute tears and the centre referee was even more shaken by it,” Tallintyre said.
“The sad thing is that this sort of behaviour is a regular occurrence — even our best referees cop some horrendous abuse, some have even had to take some time off because of the psychological toll it takes on you.”
Upon later review, Football Gold Coast ejected Mudgeeraba from the Coast League competition for the remainder of the 2018 season, suspending all players.
Jan Soler, 24, a Mudgeeraba mid-fielder, condemned his own team’s behaviour.
“Four or five players of the first team were just carrying on and abusing the referees,” Soler said.
“It was a bit selfish how they acted; I came to the club about six weeks before and had been enjoying my football after finally finding a club.
“I was really sad, honestly, because now me and my teammates have been banned for the rest of the season.
“In all my years of playing football in Spain, I’ve never been involved in any kind of this behaviour.
“In team sports, people need to understand that you can’t act like this or otherwise there will be consequences for the whole team.
“Without referees, there is no game. We must have respect for them and the game.”
Former local referee Broznan Playne threw away the whistle three years ago because of the abuse he received while serving as the man in the middle.
“I had a really bad experience as a referee. Every week I went out there, I had to deal with abuse from parents, players and spectators and in the end I just got sick of it,” Playne said.
“Why would someone want to come to work every weekend and get sworn at and abused? It’s the same concept.
“You’re either loved by one team or hated by another, never respected.
“Of course we make mistakes as referees, it’s the same as playing. Some days you’ll have an amazing game, and others you’ll have a shocker. And that’s okay! We’re only human.
“But people associated with the game just don’t realise that, and I think that is where the problem lies.
“We aren’t educating these people on how to approach the game and enjoy it for what it is.”
Tallintyre accepts there is a significant problem but feels he doesn’t have the backing and funding from higher authorities to do anything about it.
“It’s a problem everywhere, not just on the Gold Coast. It’s even a problem in all sports, not just football,” Tallintyre said.
However, Football Gold Coast recently implemented the “Enough is Enough” campaign against bad behaviour, engaging the majority of Gold Coast clubs.
“I think the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign is great at trying to educate parents, but we still have a long way to go,” Tallintyre said.
There have been calls by federations throughout Australia for Football Federation Australia (FFA) to fund programs to support referees and increase respect for the game.
“There’s no psychological help for referees whatsoever, even at state level, only for the A-League. It can really take its toll on you,” Tallintyre said.
“We can be in situations like these where everything’s chaotic, then we get home and are just expected to get on with it.
“We see a lot of the comments made on Facebook pages towards referees, and you often wonder how much psychological damage it does to you.”