U.S. Soccer
The following are brief synopses of appeals cases considered by the Appeals Committee during 2003. These are not complete summaries of each decision – rather, each synopsis provides an overview of those facts and findings by the appeals panels that are considered most relevant and/or noteworthy.

[Note: Some appeals cases were assigned numbers and then dismissed or withdrawn before the Appeals Committee considered them – thus some appeals numbers are skipped below]


USSF Appeal No. 2003-1

Facts: An assistant referee ran onto the field during an altercation between several players. The AR placed his hands on one of the players (a minor), pulling him away from the fight. The AR was charged with assault.

The SRA for the state association called the AR the next day and indicated that there would need to be a hearing on the issue and he would "appreciate it" if the AR did not officiate any games in the meantime. The SRA also recommended that the AR look at the referee handbook to understand the hearing process and his rights, and the SRA sent a copy of this handbook to the AR. When the chair for the hearing committee was appointed, he exchanged emails with the AR regarding a convenient date for the hearing. They agreed to a specific date, but shortly before the hearing the AR was injured at work – he called the state association and asked that they conduct the hearing without him. At the hearing, the hearing panel determined they wished to hear from the AR. They asked him to submit his version of the incident in writing. They also attempted to reconvene so they could hear him live, but scheduling conflicts prevented this. The hearing panel found that the AR had committed assault, and suspended him for 3 years – the same length of time that a coach would be suspended for assaulting a minor referee.

Decision: By a 2-1 vote, the panel DENIED the appeal. The panel unanimously found that: (1) the length of suspension (3 years) was appropriate, since it was based on the length that a non-referee of the same age would be suspended for assaulting a minor referee; and (2) the AR waived his right to appear before the hearing panel in person when he asked them to proceed without him. However, the panel was split on one last issue – whether the AR received proper notice. The panel noted that no formal written charging letter was sent to the AR, as required in USSF Bylaw 701. However, two of the three panel members found that notice was sufficient because the AR communicated by email and phone with the SRA and the hearing chair, and also received the referee handbook which spelled out possible consequences.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-2

Facts: The appellant, a coach, asked his team manager to contact a coach from another team, asking for permission to contact one of that coach’s players and invite the player to be a "guest player" in a tournament. The team manager claims that she tried to contact the coach several times, but when she was unable to contact him she called the player’s parents directly. State association rules prohibit contacting a player before contacting the player’s coach. The opposing coach complained about the call to the player’s parents, and the state association referred the issue to its disciplinary committee. Due to some changes in the chairperson for this committee, almost 6 months elapsed before a hearing was held on the charges. The state found that the appellant was guilty of "illegal recruiting" because he was responsible for the team manager’s actions. He was suspended for six months.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal, for two reasons. First, the panel found that the coach should not be held responsible for the actions of the team manager without any evidence at all that he "actively or passively condoned or encouraged the violation." The panel noted that the state association has specifically determined that it was "undisputed that Appellant did not direct, condone, or encourage [the team manager’s] direct contact with a player." Second, the panel found that the delay of 6 months from the time of the incident to the time of the hearing was excessive.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-3

Facts: The state association rejected an application to host a tournament. The club seeking permission to host claimed this decision had no legitimate basis.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel noted that the state association clearly has the authority to deny applications to host, but must have some legitimate reason. In this case, the panel noted that there was absolutely "no written rule, standard, or set of guidelines that it used to make such decisions." Thus, in the absence of some written rule or guidelines, or some other assurance that the decision is not completely arbitrary, the panel ruled that the state must grant permission.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-4

Facts: A player lived in state A, but attended boarding school in state B. He requested permission to register with teams in both states, so he could play both when he was at school and at home. State A refused to allow him to register, but did allow him to play as a guest player on a team there.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The panel found that a rule within an organization prohibiting a player from registering for two teams, or at least requiring permission from both entities, was enforceable. The panel noted that the player was still being permitted to participate, and thus was being treated fairly.

The panel did criticize the state association, however, for a letter it sent to the player’s parents during the process stating that the matter was an "administrative" one and they would thus not "deal" with the parents’ lawyer. The panel noted that this was improper,

and that the state should not suggest that an individual is somehow barred from using legal assistance for writing letters or filing an appeal.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-5

Facts: A team administrator was suspended for six months for using an illegal player in a game. While under suspension, the administrator appeared at several team practices, filed paperwork for his team, and listed himself as team manager for a state cup team. The state association held a hearing, charging him with violating the terms of his suspension, and suspended him for an additional 18 months.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, after rejecting a number of arguments by the appellant, as follows:

1. The panel rejected the claim that the appellant’s actions did not violate his suspension. The panel did note, however, that the state association should make an effort in the future to define what actions are and are not allowed – it could be possible for someone under suspension not to realize that a purely administrative action is prohibited.

2. The panel rejected the claim that the appellant was told by a state administrator that he could serve as team manager. First, the state administrator denied this allegation. Second, he had not provided any evidence that the state administrator had the authority to give him this permission.

3. The panel rejected the claim that his original suspension was invalid because he had filed an appeal with the state and never heard back. The state had no evidence that he filed such an appeal. More importantly, a suspension is not stayed automatically merely because an appeal has been filed.

4. The panel found that an 18 month term for the new suspension was appropriate and not unreasonably excessive, since the original suspension (that he had violated) was 6 months.

5. The panel rejected the argument that the appellant’s attorney should have been allowed to present his case at the hearing. There is nothing in USSF rules that grants the right for anything more than "assistance." State hearing rules may require that the parties present their own case, and not have a representative speak for them.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-6

Facts: A coach was accused of using foul and inappropriate language while addressing his U-11 team during a match. Pursuant to state association procedures, an investigator was appointed who interviewed a number of witnesses and prepared a report with the details of these interviews and concluding that "violations have occurred." A hearing was scheduled, then rescheduled when notice to the coach was unsuccessful. The coach stated that he would not be able to attend the hearing. He contends he submitted a packet of written materials before the hearing, but the state had no record of receipt. After the hearing (where he was found to have violated state rules) the coach resubmitted some materials and asked for reconsideration. The hearing committee considered the new evidence, but did not change its decision, noting that his witness statements were not notarized. The coach submitted notarized witness statements, but these were deemed too late.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, rejecting several different arguments from the coach. The panel made the following points:

1. The coach waived his right to appear at the hearing or to notice of witnesses when he stated he would not attend, and specifically did not make a request that the hearing be rescheduled.

2. It is impossible to determine if the coach did submit materials before the hearing. However, even if the state misplaced them, they offered him the ability to resubmit them and reconsidered the decision.

3. The investigator was not improperly "biased" simply because she interviewed many of the witnesses who testified against the coach. However, the state association should consider revising its procedures to that the investigator is not making any conclusions such as "violations have occurred." The investigator should simply determine whether a hearing is appropriate – the hearing panel must make the final determination of whether a violation has occurred.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-7

Facts: A coach used an ineligible player in a game. He admitted that he had done so to the state association. A hearing was held, and he was suspended for one year from the date of the decision.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the claim that the suspension should have run from the date of the incident, since the coach had been suspended since that time. The panel found that the only question was whether the term of the suspension was arbitrary – having it run one year from the date of the decision was not arbitrary. Second, the panel rejected the claim that the coach should be able to retain his duties as club president. The hearing committee has the authority to extend suspensions to all soccer activities if it wishes – in this case it chose to do so.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-8

Facts: A coach was sent off during a game by the referee. The referee alleged that just after the game ended, the coach came running back on to the field and punched the referee in the stomach. The referee did not file a report with the state association for almost two months – he indicates he had the wrong address for the state association. The state association then did not hold a hearing for another two and one half months. The state association ruled that the coach was guilty of referee assault and suspended him.

Decision: The panel UPHELD the appeal. The panel ruled that the delay of 4.5 months between the incident and the hearing was excessive, especially because the state association conceded that the referee was unable to definitively identify the coach at the hearing based on the long delay.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-9

Facts: The state association rejected an application to host a tournament. The club seeking permission to host claimed this decision had no legitimate basis.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel noted that the state association clearly has the authority to deny applications to host, but must have some legitimate reason. In this case, the panel noted that there was absolutely "no written rule, standard, or set of guidelines that it used to make such decisions." Thus, in the absence of some written rule or guidelines, or some other assurance that the decision is not completely arbitrary, the panel ruled that the state must grant permission.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-10

Facts: A parent ran onto the field during a game and the assistant referee alleges that he placed his hand on her shoulder while protesting a call. The parent denied the allegation. No other witnesses saw him touch the AR – the center referee testified that she saw the parent "reach out" toward the AR, but never actually touch her. The AR testified at different times during the hearing that it was a "hand" that touched her, "hands" that touched her, and an "arm." She said that she was "scared," but wrote in her report that she simply "removed his hand" and testified that she never said anything to him about touching her because she wasn’t even "thinking" about him touching her. The parent was found guilty of referee assault and suspended for three years (because the referee was a minor).

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel found that the hearing committee’s determination that the parent committed assault was "clearly erroneous," since the only evidence to support the allegation came from the AR, whose testimony was quite "inconsistent." The panel specifically noted that it did not wish to substitute its conclusions on issues of fact for those of the hearing committee unless it could come to no other conclusion, but in this case the finding of assault was clearly erroneous.

The panel also noted that the parent was only charged with referee assault, and that the hearing committee was incorrect in assuming that it could also hear evidence on referee abuse as a "lesser included charge," and that if the parent had been found guilty of abuse, the appeals panel would have had to reverse since he was not notified that this was a possible charge.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-11

Facts: A coach was found guilty of referee abuse in 2000, and was instructed that he needed to complete an anger management course. If he failed to provide proof that he had completed the course by April 1, 2001, he was informed that he would be suspended through September 2001, to be followed by one year’s probation. In April 2001, having not received adequate proof from the coach, the state informed him that its disciplinary committee had decided "in a telephonic meeting" that he was "indefinitely" suspended until he provided the required proof. In April 2003, the coach in question coached a game and was given two yellow cards because he allegedly "cussed" at the referee. The state association realized the coach was already under "indefinite" suspension. The state held a hearing to consider charges that he coached while under suspension and engaged in behavior that is not in the "best interests" of soccer. The coach did not appear at the hearing. The state suspended the coach for five years.

Decision: The panel REMANDED the appeal. While the panel found that the coach’s failure to appear at the hearing meant that he "waived" his right to offer his version of what happened, the panel also noted that the failure to appear at the hearing should not be grounds for making the discipline more severe. The panel noted that the state’s decision called his "failure to appear . . . unacceptable." The panel found this to be improper.

The panel also noted its concern with the term of suspension. The panel noted that the coach was originally informed that, if he failed to provide proof of completion of an anger management course, he would be suspended for 6 months. Then, without any further hearing, the state informed him that he was suspended indefinitely because he failed to provide the requested proof.

Finally, the panel noted that the state association was unable to provide any documents relating to the original offense in 2000. Thus, the panel was unable to get a clear sense of the history of the case.

The panel concluded that the state association could hold a new hearing on the new charges (harassing the referee), but could not consider evidence of past offenses or the charge that he coached while under suspension. The panel indicated that the coach would stay under suspension in the interim, but that the suspension would be lifted if the state did not hold a hearing within 45 days.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-12

Facts: A coach was found to have committed referee abuse due to consistent comments on calls during the game, and approaching the referee after the match in a way that was "inappropriately confrontational." The hearing committee found that the referee also acted inappropriately be engaging the coach in this confrontation after the match.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that he did not act inappropriately – the panel noted this was a question of fact, and it would not substitute its judgment on the factual findings for that of the hearing committee as long as there was some evidence to support those findings. Second, the panel rejected the claim that the hearing was improperly delayed (because it was held 3 months after the incident). The panel noted that the reason for the delay was that the coach had filed a cross-complaint against the referee, and the hearing committee wanted to resolve all the issues at once. The panel also noted that the coach had not been suspended during this delay, and thus suffered little prejudice. Third, the panel rejected the claim that the hearing panel was biased simply because one of the hearing committee members drove to the hearing with two of the referees. Finally, the panel rejected the coach’s contention that he was treated unfairly at the hearing because he was the last one given the opportunity to speak – the panel noted there is no right to present arguments in a specific order.


USSF Appeal Nos. 2003-13, 2003-15

Facts: Two coaches for a team were found to have violated rules against using illegal players. At the game in question, the coaches realized they would not have enough players, and called the other team’s coach to ask if they could bring two guest players. The opposing coach agreed. However, league rules forbade use of guest players. There was also an allegation that the coaches allowed a third player to play using the uniform and player pass of an absent player.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The coaches argued that the game in question was not "official" and thus they had not violated any rules. The appeals panel, however, noted that the hearing panel had made a factual finding that it was an official match, and noted that it must defer to the factual findings of the hearing panel unless there is no evidence to support those findings.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-14

Facts: A referee and a coach had a confrontation during a game. The two bumped chests, and the referee admits that he "lunged" at the coach. Both the referee and the coach were suspended by the state association – the referee’s suspension was longer than the coach’s. The referee appealed.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The referee’s main objection was that he did not feel it was appropriate for the state to hold him to a "higher standard" and it was unfair that his suspension was longer than the coach’s suspension. The panel rejected this argument, finding that it was "irrelevant" how long the coach was suspended. The only question was whether the suspension is appropriate in light of the charges – the panel found that it was.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-16

Facts: A team registrar issued a temporary player pass to a player for a game, despite the fact that the player was already registered with another team. The registrar testified that she was unaware that the player was registered with another team, and also introduced testimony from the team coach indicating that he told the registrar the player was not registered elsewhere. The registrar was suspended.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The panel noted that the registrar was supposed to have checked the player’s registration status herself through the state association, and should not have relied on the coach’s statement that the player was not registered elsewhere. The panel rejected the registrar’s argument that she did not know how she was supposed to check the registration status herself – the panel noted that ignorance of the rules is not a defense.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-17

Facts: A fight broke out during a game. One team was, in the eyes of the referees, the main cause of the fight. The state association charged that team’s lead administrator with a violation of its "accountability" rule. Notice was sent out to each member of the team, but the notice sent to the administrator was not delivered. The administrator heard about the hearing from his team, however, and appeared. Several witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing by phone were not able to testify, due to problems with the phone system.

Decision: The panel REMANDED the appeal. The panel was concerned that the administrator did not receive proper notice – while by appearing he may have waived his right to object to lack of notice, he did not have a chance to review the materials sent out in advance of the hearing. This fact, combined with the fact that several witnesses could not testify when the phone system failed, led the panel to conclude that a new hearing was required. The panel noted that the record provided was very sparse, making it difficult to confirm that the various due process rights were provided. The panel ruled that the state association must hold a hearing within 45 days, or else the administrator’s suspension would be overturned.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-18

Facts: A referee serving as SDI for the state association was accused by one official of treating him in a demeaning fashion during a referee clinic, and accused by another official of abusing his position (for instance, by promoting referees based on criteria other than merit). The adult and youth state associations were directed by USSF to hold a joint hearing, but they could not agree on how to proceed. It appeared that the adult state association was interested in protecting the SDI, while the youth state association was interested in prosecuting him. The two associations agreed to use an impartial outsider – a retired judge – as the hearing chair, and each association appointed one member as well. The hearing panel met on three separate days, over several months, to hear all the evidence. Shortly before the final hearing date, the accused SDI obtained an attorney who objected to the procedures being used and informed the panel that his client was unavailable due to a "prior commitment." The panel proceeded with the hearing anyway, and issued a decision finding the SDI had violated referee misconduct rules.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The panel rejected several arguments raised by the appellant, as follows:

1. The panel rejected the numerous claims by the SDI that the hearing panel reached incorrect factual conclusions, or that evidence or witnesses presented by the SDI were improperly ignored. The panel noted that it must defer to the factual findings of the hearing panel so long as there is some evidence to support those findings. The panel further noted that it must defer to the hearing panel on issues relating to the credibility of witnesses, as the hearing panel has the opportunity to observe them live.

2. The panel rejected the SDI’s claim that the last hearing date should not have taken place without him. The panel noted that the SDI’s most recent claim for why he was unavailable (that it was a religious holiday) was not raised until the appeal. The panel further noted that given the extensive time frame involved, and the last minute declaration by the SDI that he was unavailable, it was appropriate to proceed, especially since he had the opportunity to appear at the first two hearing dates, and one of his advisors was available on the last date.

3. The panel rejected the SDI’s claim that the panel was biased. While the two members appointed by the state associations were clearly advocating certain positions, one member appeared to be supporting the SDI, and the chair was an objective third party. Since the SDI had specifically agreed to the makeup of the panel at the beginning, the panel did not feel this argument to merit granting the appeal. The panel did note, however, that the state associations need to make an effort to appoint objective individuals to hearing panels in the future.

4. The panel rejected the SDI’s claim that the failure to hear the charges on a timely basis merited a reversal. The panel admitted that the extensive time between the incident and the decision (more than two years) was "shocking." However, the panel noted that at least some of this delay was due to one state association protecting the SDI by stalling any resolution.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-19

Facts: A coach/referee was a spectator at a game in which his son was playing. When his son was injured, he entered the field of play. While walking past the assistant referee, he swore at him and told him he was not controlling the game. The AR also alleges that the coach bumped his shoulder.

A hearing was scheduled, but the coach asked for a rescheduling of the hearing. The state association did reschedule, and sent a letter informing the coach that he was suspended in the interim, and that this suspension included appearances at games as a spectator. Before the hearing took place, the coach admits to attending another match as a spectator. At the hearing, the hearing committee found that the evidence as to whether there was physical contact with the AR was "ambiguous," but that referee abuse did occur because he violated the AR’s "space." The hearing committee suspended the coach for six months for the referee abuse, and another 8 months for violating the terms of his suspension.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The panel rejected the claim that the coach was improperly disciplined because he could not know what an appropriate amount of "space" was. The panel found that this was a question of fact, and that the hearing committee had determined that the coach’s proximity to the AR was such that it could be perceived to be threatening (and thus abuse). The panel also rejected the claim that the suspension was excessive – the panel noted that the rule simply provided for a "minimum" suspension, and the state has the authority to provide a longer suspension if appropriate.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-20

Facts: After a game, a coach was walking through the parking lot when three girls from an opposing team made gagging noises and laughed at him. He allegedly told them his team would "kick their asses tomorrow" and called them "bitches." The state association schedule a hearing, and the coach informed the state that he could not attend, and was unavailable for the entire summer. The state agreed, through the coach’s attorney, to have the coach submit a notarized statement. At the hearing, four eyewitnesses (the 3 players and one parent) testified as to what had happened. The hearing committee refused to hear testimony from two parents who wished to offer character testimony for the coach, as well as one parent who did not witness the incident but wished to testify about contact with the coach after the incident.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, based on the following points:

1. The panel rejected the claim that the hearing committee acted improperly by allowing 4 witnesses to testify for the state when the rules allow up to 3 witnesses. Each of the witnesses was an eyewitness, and the hearing committee "must be afforded some latitude in receiving evidence."

2. The panel agreed that the coach suffered no prejudice by the hearing committee refusing to hear testimony from two parents who offered only character testimony. The panel noted that the hearing committee reviewed the proffered evidence and concluded it was irrelevant. The panel did caution the state to use the power to reject testimony sparingly – if it will not unnecessarily extend the hearing, it may be better to accept testimony in order to see if it is truly irrelevant. At a minimum, it provides the accused with a stronger sense of having been treated fairly.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-23

Facts: A coach was criticized by several parents for his intense, negative coaching style and the way he "denigrates" his players. One parent filed a complaint with the state association, and also filed complaints with the police and the department of children’s services, alleging that the coach was engaging in "child abuse." Pursuant to its risk management policy, the state association suspended the coach immediately, and then held a hearing to consider whether he had violated the "spirit and intent" of a number of state association rules dealing with sportsmanship, substitutions, and transfers of players. The hearing committee found that he had violated the "spirit" of two state rules, and suspended him for ten years. Upon review, the state appeals committee reduced the suspension to two years.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal, based on the following points:

1. Framing the case as a "risk management" case was troubling for the panel, since it was not truly a case of "child abuse," despite the allegations. This was merely a case about coaching style. The panel felt it was a "misuse of the risk management process to immediately suspend a coach, without a hearing, based on allegations such as those raised here."

2. The coach can only be disciplined for violating the actual language of a rule – not the "spirit" or "intent" of the rule.

3. The notice letter to the coach lacked "specificity" as to the discipline he could face – it simply noted the hearing committee could "impose any form of discipline deemed appropriate."


USSF Appeal No. 2003-24

Facts: A coach was found guilty of referee abuse for his conduct during a game. At the hearing, the hearing committee heard testimony from a woman who was a parent present during the game. This woman was present at the hearing because she is a part of the hearing committee – she was there to consider the hearings scheduled for the day. She realized in reviewing the cases set for the day that she could not participate in this case. The hearing committee then asked her to testify, but did not notify the coach as to her relationship with the hearing committee. During the hearing, when several witnesses for the coach could not be reached by phone, he attempted to submit written statements from them. The hearing committee refused to accept these witness statements, since their rules make it clear they must first be available for questioning. The state association found that the coach must pay a fine and complete a referee course within 30 days, or else be suspended for one year.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel was concerned about a few issues:

1. The panel found that the committee should not have solicited the testimony from the woman who was part of their committee without making it clear to the coach what her role with the committee was. Having her testify before the same committee she was serving on for other cases on the same day created an appearance of impropriety.

2. The failure to accept the witness statements. The panel suggested the state association should have made an effort to either find another time the witnesses could be contacted, or in light of the circumstances accept the witness statements.

3. The time frame for the discipline (i.e. within 30 days) creates a situation where the coach faced a suspension by choosing to appeal. Since an appeal takes more than 30 days, by choosing to appeal the coach could not possibly comply with the decision before the automatic suspension set in. The panel suggested the state association should allow more time in cases where an appeal is filed.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-25

Facts: A coach was sent off during a match. After the match, he approached the referee and engaged in a shouting match with him. The referee contends that the coach swore at him and slapped him in the shoulder. The state association found insufficient evidence that the coach made any contact with the referee, but found him to have committed referee abuse.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel noted that a comment to a referee do not constitute "abuse" unless the comment "implies or threatens physical harm." The panel found nothing in the record suggesting that the coach said anything other than "you’re a bad referee," "I need your name," and "f*** you, piece of s***." The panel noted that this behavior is quite clearly inappropriate and merits discipline, but does not constitute "abuse."


USSF Appeal Nos. 2003-26, 2003-27

Facts: A coach held tryouts for a team in July for the season beginning in September. Shortly after tryouts, the coach left the team and formed a new team with a second coach. Several players from the old team joined the new team. Both coaches were found guilty of violating recruiting rules that forbid "encourag[ing] or otherwise entic[ing] a player to transfer from one team to another during that team’s seasonal year."

The state association hearing panel was chaired by a local administrator whose son played for the team the coach had left. This chairperson helped run the hearing, but did not take place in any hearing panel deliberations or the decision.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, through a split decision 2-1. One member of the panel felt that the hearing chairperson should not have participated in the hearing due to his son’s ties with the team in question – a majority of the panel disagreed, noting that the chairperson had no role in the final decision. One member of the panel also felt that the coaches did not violate the rule, because the contact with players was in the summer and not "during that team’s seasonal year." A majority of the panel disagreed, finding that the rule might be slightly unclear, but the intent of the rule was quite clear and the coaches should have been quite aware of the fact that he was acting improperly.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-28

Facts: A coach was found guilty of poaching. The complaint against him included an email from the coach to a player on another team, as well as a printout of an internet chat session.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The panel rejected the coach’s claim that the email and the internet chat transcript should not have been used against him – the panel noted that the coach never suggested the documents were not genuine, and in the absence of some question as to their authenticity, the hearing panel was entitled to consider them. The panel also rejected the coach’s complaint that one of his players was not allowed to testify – the player in question was a minor, and the state association properly enforced its rule forbidding minors from testifying without a parent being present. Finally, the panel rejected the coach’s claims that he never initiated any of this contact (because the players contacted him first) and that he never asked the players to do anything more than play for his summer team. The panel noted that these were factual issues, and must defer to the factual findings of the hearing panel unless there is no evidence to support such findings.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-29

Facts: A player spit at a referee while jogging off the field. The referee contended that he was hit by the spit. The player was found guilty of referee assault and suspended for one year. The notes from the hearing indicate that the hearing panel gave the player the "minimum" suspension of one year, and the state association attached to the record an old copy of the USSF rule on referee assault (which provided for a minimum one year suspension). The current USSF rule calls for a minimum 6 month suspension.

Decision: By a 2-1 vote, the panel DENIED the appeal. First, the panel noted that all the player’s arguments related to issues of fact – he simply disputed the contention that he spit on the referee. The panel unanimously rejected this claim, noting that it must defer to the factual findings of the hearing panel unless there is no evidence to support those findings. However, one member of the panel was concerned that the hearing panel appeared to have mistakenly handed down a one year suspension due to a failure to use the current USSF assault rule. A majority of the panel found that since the rule only called for a "minimum" of 6 months, a one year suspension was within the scope of the hearing panel’s authority.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-30

Facts: After a game, a player was accused of attacking a player from the opposing team in the parking lot. At the hearing, another player from the opposing team, a minor, was called to testify as to what he saw. Since his parents were not present, the hearing panel called them and received permission over the phone to have him testify. The hearing committee suspended the accused player for 6 months.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the claim that the opposing player’s teammate should not have been allowed to testify because he was a minor – the parents gave specific permission to allow him to testify. Second, the panel rejected the claim that the opposing player’s teammate should not have been allowed to testify because he was not an "eyewitness" – the teammate testified that he did see the altercation. Third, the panel rejected the claim that the state improperly failed to provide a referee report – there was no reason to believe the referee report (from the game) would be relevant to this case (stemming from an incident after the game). More importantly, the state association indicated there was no referee report from the game in question. Finally, the panel rejected the claim that the suspension was excessive. The panel noted that 6 months for physically attacking someone without provocation was not unduly harsh.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-31

Facts: At the conclusion of a game, a player was packing up his equipment when the linesman from the next game directed him to leave the field. The player confronted the linesman, and allegedly pushed or bumped him. Six weeks after the incident, the player received a letter from the state association informing him that he was immediately suspended for one year. When the player requested a hearing, the state informed him that it could hold an "informational hearing" but "nothing could be decided or changed."

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel noted that USSF Bylaw 701 requires the state association to have a hearing. The panel stated that the state association was either misreading its rule (which states that a player who commits assault shall be "automatically" suspended) by not understanding it to mean that a hearing must occur first, or else it must rewrite its rule. The state may not, however, suspend a player for one year for assault without a hearing.


USSF Appeal No. 2003-34

Facts: A player who was playing goalkeeper ran after an opposing player who had just scored a goal against him. The goalkeeper kicked wildly at the player’s back but missed him. The center referee sent him off the field, where he proceeded to kick at equipment bags on the sideline. The state association found the player had committed an act of player assault and suspended him for three months.

Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, but had two concerns. First, the panel was concerned about the ambiguity of the evidence as to how close the player was to the opposing player when he kicked. The player claims he was not close and was not trying to make contact, but was merely frustrated. Between the assistant referee, the player, and other witnesses, there were reports that the player was quite close and that he was "10-15 yards" away. The panel determined that it would defer to the factual findings of the hearing committee. The panel was also concerned with the length of suspension, since the player was not only suspended for 3 months, but was also held out of games before the hearing for almost a month. However, the panel found that the suspension did not amount to "arbitrary or capricious" and thus must stand.

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