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Are Soccer Players and Fans Too Unsportsmanlike?

Are Soccer Players and Fans Too Unsportsmanlike?

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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioAre soccer players more unsportsmanlike than other athletes? Are their fans and parents becoming out of control?

Some soccer fans are wondering this after the entire sport of boy's high school soccer was put on probation for a year.

We've always known that soccer fans can be a bit rowdy. Even some Real Salt Lake fans were recently thrown out for waving flags that the Chinese National Team found offensive.

But, is putting the entire high school sport of boy's soccer across the state on probation really fair? "What in the wide, wide world of sports is a going on here?!"

High school sports officials say there were 111 ejections in boy's soccer last year. Let's put that into perspective by comparing that number to another year when boy's soccer was put on probation.

High School Activities Association Assistant Director Rob Cuff said, "When that probations was lifted in 2003 they had back-to-back years of, in the 70s and 80s, for ejections."

Cuff says he will admit rules are a little different for soccer. First of all, there are two kinds of ejections. One is the equivalent of fouling out. The other comes from unsportsmanlike conduct.

"[These are] things such as profanity, abusive language, spitting at an official or an opponent, making contact with an official, unsportsmanlike things [like] violent conduct and violent contact," Cuff explained.

Out of those 111 ejections, 73 were the unsportsmanlike kind. Soccer fans say they thought the probation was unfair, at first. They say it's easier to get tossed from a soccer game than in other sports.

Utah Youth Soccer President Scott Maxfield said, "Two strikes and you're out in soccer. You have five strikes and you're [asked to] step aside in basketball. In football, as long as you're not continually doing things, but you're in the confines of sportsmanship, you get to stay on."

However, Maxfield says even he was surprised to see the number of players removed this year, and the problem is not just with the players. He says fans, coaches and parents add to the problem, and the main target of their anger is the ref.

"Get off the referee's case. Let the kids play the game. In those circumstances where unsportsmanlike situations take place, then punish them to the Nth degree," Maxfield said.

However, soccer officials say fans here are nowhere near the level of rabid fanaticism you see in other countries. Plus, despite the critiques you may hear from soccer fans next to you, no referees are actually blind.

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