New penalties for referee assault in Ohio could be on the way

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

Rayland, Ohio (WTRF) – Any athlete will tell you—the energy of a crowd is electric.

The cheers push up the adrenaline to make better plays and get that win for the fans.

But the sheer number of people getting riled up for their favorite team can lead them to take it out on the people trying to be fair observers—the referees.

As a younger official, I actually felt threatened a few times, more from fans than coaches.

Sam Jones, OVAC football referee

The Ohio Senate has a bill in front of them that would deter physical attacks on refs.

Offenders would be slapped with a first degree misdemeanor, with an automatic fine of 15-hundred dollars and 40 hours of community service.

Jones says some of the disconnect between the spectators and officials comes from differences in how pro and high school games are played.

They really don’t know the rules. Even some coaches. Everybody watches football on Saturday or on Sunday, they’ll watch Buckeyes or Mountaineers or Steelers, and the rules are a little different in high school.

Sam Jones, OVAC football referee

The pressure has led to an increasing number of referee walkouts.

Next year the OVAC is considering having more Thursday games, simply because they don’t have enough crew members to handle all the Friday ones.

Part of it is that they have to put up with stuff. Whether it’s fans over them, coaches over them, and these guys are like ‘man, do I really want to do this?’

Sam Jones, OVAC football referee

West Virginia has already taken measures against crowd abuse on those who enforce the rules.

The state code gives a $500 fine or up to six months in jail for assault, and double that for battery.

That’s the same fine given to those who make physical contact with a police officer.

Jones says after 34 years of calling the games as he sees them, it’s just a matter of letting the fans cool down.

Because after all, you’re going to hear arguments from one side of the stadium or the other.

I just kind of tune them out and do my job. The roar of the crowd, you know…how do you say it, half the people hate you all the time.

Sam Jones, OVAC football referee

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