Whether you’re involved in sport at the elite level or watching a team of enthusiastic five-year-olds bouncing, passing or kicking a ball in the grassroots environment, it’s possible you might have seen poor sideline behaviour in sport at some stage.
Although the vast majority of spectators cheer and support their kids and teams with joy and passion, there are growing instances where verbal and online abuse is directed at players, referees, coaches, support staff, other spectators and even volunteers.
It has an impact not only on the mental health of individuals but on the people around them and is being seen as a continuing threat to the integrity of sport in Australia and overseas.
In September 2022, we published a story in Sport Integrity Matters magazine about “The Ugly Side of Sport” after speaking to a referee, coach, club volunteer, player and journalist to get their perspectives on the toll sideline abuse is taking.
Reflecting on his own career Ben Williams, a retired A-League, Asian Football Confederation and FIFA World Cup referee, said: “Unfortunately many young referees don’t get to experience these phenomenal moments because they’ve left their career early due to abuse.”
“In my career I encountered death threats directed at my wife and my children, which meant they no longer felt safe in their own home. There is definitely no place for this in sport.”
A community sports club president, Neil Harlock, cited a scourge of abuse in his sport which not only impacted the mental health of players but flowed through to club volunteers, the referee base and spectators.
“To hear threats and slurs from the crowd firstly renders as disbelief among the team, clear shock and emotion can be seen, which then affects performances,” he said about the abuse directed at his National Premier League first grade men’s team.
“It then manifests as insecurity as this is essentially their workplace for the time they are on and around the field.
“At the grassroots and amateur level in a very large club essentially run by volunteers, we often feel limited in what we can do from a safety and security point of view. There’s the feeling that there’s a potential and very real danger.”
Discussions between sporting organisations, clubs and government suggest that some sports are becoming increasingly competitive from a younger age with high emotion attached from the spectator base, thus leading to undue pressure being placed on kids which flows through to coaches and officials.
Let Kids Be Kids is a national campaign created by Play by the Rules to help clubs at grassroots level bring policies to life and actively address poor sideline behaviour via posters, toolkits and campaign messaging.
Elaine Heaney, National Manager of Play By The Rules, would much rather kids turn up to practice and had fun playing with their friends than forced into a situation where they are being yelled at or berated for not winning a game or making a call whilst they are still learning the rules and developing their skills.
“Adult sideline spectators often mean well and are enthusiastic about their contributions, because they enjoy being part of the process,” said Elaine, “but sometimes it’s important to stop to think about the impact of their words on the child or young person – and how it feels for a small human to have a large adult raise their voice at them.
“If the child or young person (or even another adult) feels berated or upset by what has been said, is it worth it? It’s not about removing winning or healthy competition from sport but about focusing on the fact that happy, healthy athletes operating in a safe space, often produce much better results, and keep people playing the sports we love.”
From grassroots to elite sport, the problem often grows as the stakes get higher.
Jenna O’Hea, former Australian Opals captain, feels the popularity of betting has added another layer of abuse of athletes with people losing money often blaming the athletes for their financial loss.
“This is where I see it is getting worse and is taking the biggest toll on athletes,” she said.
“As athletes we know that fans are passionate about sport but crossing the line with personal attacks, racism, any type of attack is never OK and just because you’re behind a keyboard, that doesn’t make it any less abusive than a face-to-face attack.”
Each situation and experience with poor sideline behaviour and online abuse in sport is different, with some impacts short-term and others everlasting. Regardless of the magnitude and severity there’s no place for sideline abuse in sport at any level.
In summing up his experiences, community club president Neil Harlock said, “My seven-year-old daughter came to me recently and said ‘Dad, were there any fights at the footy today?’ I was mortified!”
“Our children deserve more than this. Our players, volunteers, young referees, coaches and the families who come to cheer on their teams, all deserve more than this.”
The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) remains resolute in its mission to maintain fairness, integrity, and transparency within the esports industry. In alignment with our commitment, we have meticulously reviewed an out-of-time appeal submitted by Allan “Rejin” Petersen in May 2023, concerning a sanction originally imposed in 2020. The substance of the appeal was related to the post-facto Valve RMR sanction imposed by Valve independently and in response to ESIC’s original sanction. Importantly, the result of ESIC’s review does not modify the ESIC-imposed sanction but significantly affects the post-facto Valve RMR sanction.
Overview of the Appeal
Mr. Petersen was initially assigned 8 demerit points as a result of ESIC’s investigation into his involvement and incorrect response to the CSGO coach bug. This decision was reached after a comprehensive investigation, and the demerit points assigned to Mr. Petersen were subsequently and independently recognized by Valve and translated into a secondary Valve RMR sanction banning Mr. Petersen from Valve Majors for life.
While the original sanction by ESIC remains unaltered our adherence to the principles of natural justice and equitable treatment prompted the acceptance of the appeal, even though it was submitted almost three years after the initial sanction was imposed. The ESIC Independent Appeal Panel and the ESIC Commissioner have conducted an exhaustive review of the case, considering new evidence presented by Mr. Petersen.
Mr. Petersen has successfully substantiated that the extent of the bug exploitation was not as initially calculated. Acknowledging this new evidence and in pursuit of equity and fairness, the demerit points assigned to Mr. Petersen have been recalculated and reduced from 8 to 5.
Implications of Appeal Result
It is important to note that this recalibration does not modify the ESIC-imposed sanction (meaning ESIC in this statement is not modifying its initial sanction) but significantly affects the post-facto Valve RMR sanction. The revised demerit points alleviate the lifetime ban from Valve Majors, imposing a restriction from 5 Majors instead. Following this period, Mr. Petersen will regain eligibility to coach in subsequent Majors.
Importantly, ESIC has communicated the result of the appeal to Valve and has received notice that the result of the appeal has been accepted by Valve.
ESIC extends its appreciation to Valve for facilitating open and collaborative communications on this matter and for reviewing and accepting the appeal.
ESIC also acknowledges Mr. Petersen for his cooperation and transparency throughout the investigation process. His prompt admission and invaluable contribution, notably being one of the first coaches to disclose the existence of the bug, were instrumental in facilitating our inquiry.
ESIC is unwavering in its commitment to safeguarding the core values of the esports industry and will continue to implement rigorous measures to ensure fairness and integrity. Our resolve to uphold the highest standards of integrity within the esports industry remains steadfast.
No suspicious betting or match‑manipulation threats identified during the 64 matches
Second successive edition of FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to have been monitored
Task force composed of members from expert organisations
The FIFA Women’s World Cup Integrity Task Force, which was established to safeguard the competition from match‑manipulation and integrity-related threats, has recently concluded its successful work in monitoring the betting markets and in‑game action in real time during all 64 matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™.
At its post-competition meeting held today, the task force concluded that no suspicious betting activities or match‑manipulation threats had been identified around any game that took place during the tournament. This was the second edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to be monitored by the task force, which was launched ahead of the 2019 finals.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Integrity Task Force comprised representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, the Council of Europe’s Group of Copenhagen, United Lotteries for Integrity in Sports, the International Betting Integrity Association, Sportradar, Sport Integrity Australia and the New Zealand Police.
During the competition, FIFA centralised the collection of information from betting monitoring reports based on market activity data from various jurisdictions, including law enforcement entities and physical surveillance at competition venues.
The monitoring of both the betting markets and in-game action in real time during all of the group- and knockout-stage matches through to the final, which was played on 20 August, found no match‑manipulation threats.
The collaborative effort between FIFA and key international stakeholders in the field of sports integrity ensured an experienced, coordinated and timely response – based on information and data – to any alert during the competition, with each participating stakeholder contributing their specific expertise (investigative and/or technical) throughout the tournament.
In parallel, FIFA continues to work with confederations, member associations and other integrity stakeholders in the fight against match manipulation. In line with its core objective to promote the integrity of football, FIFA takes the battle against match manipulation very seriously and any suspicious activities can be reported via its confidential, dedicated, highly secure and web-based whistle-blowing system.
Further details of FIFA’s integrity initiatives are available here.