U.S. Soccer

The following are brief synopses of appeals cases considered by the Appeals Committee during 2006. 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[Note: Some appeals cases were assigned numbers and then dismissed or withdrawn before the Appeals Committee considered them – thus some appeals numbers are skipped below]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. 2006-1:

Facts: A state association suspended the head coach of a youth team for violating rules of conduct after he was ejected from a match for arguing with the referee and interfering with play. The appellant became upset when the official failed to get out of the way of a kicked ball. After the official approached the appellant at half time to address the inappropriate comments he was making, the appellant continued with the behavior in the second half and was ejected. The appellant refused to leave the field for five minutes, demanding an explanation for his ejection, but eventually left. After the game, the appellant approached the official and allegedly cursed at him. The state association sent a notice letter to the appellant, but the appellant claimed he did not receive it until one week before the date of the hearing. The appellant’s team manager requested a continuance, and the request was denied. He participated in the hearing via phone, and the state association suspended him from affiliated activities for a year, placed him on probation for the two years after, and fined him $250.

Decision: The appellant’s appeal was DENIED and the state association’s decision was UPHELD because the lack of notice was not raised clearly by the appellant pursuant to procedural rules, nor was he prejudiced by the alleged lack of notice.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-2:

Facts: The appellant was a coach for a U-18 boys’ soccer team that forfeited a tournament game. The team forfeited because weather conditions convinced several of the parents to take players home despite the appellant’s efforts to convince them otherwise. The state association suspended the appellant from tournaments for a year.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the state association decision REVERSED. The appeals panel found that state association’s rules did not contain a provision that allowed for a coach to be suspended because his team forfeited a match. The rules merely stated that the team could be suspended.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-3:

Facts: The appellant, a coach for a U-15 boys’ soccer team, was disciplined after he verbally abused a referee and physically slapped the hand of an assistant referee. The appellant was upset with the referees because he felt that a handball should have been called. The state association sent a letter via registered mail to the appellant notifying him of his hearing and alerting him that pursuant to USSF Policy 531-9 he was immediately suspended pending the hearing result. However, the appellant did not receive the notice until four days after the hearing. At the hearing, the state association found that the appellant was guilty of referee abuse against both referees, guilty of referee assault against the assistant referee and guilty for violating the automatic suspension. The state association levied 6 month suspensions for each of the following: abuse, assault and violation of the automatic suspension each.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The decision of the state association was UPHELD in part and REVERSED in part and REMANDED for further proceedings. Specifically, the appeals panel found that:

  1. The suspension for violating the automatic suspension was improper because the association never attempted to provide notice to the appellant of the charge that he violated his suspension.
  2. The suspension for referee assault against the assistant referee was improper because the association wrongly found the appellant guilty without notice of the charge and the proper fact finding. The notice letter only detailed the charge of referee abuse and not assault. Further, the state association misconstrued USSF Policy 531-9 to mean that an assault of a minor requires a three year minimum sentence. However, the actual minimum is three months where the charge is “minor or slight touching”. Therefore, this issue was remanded back to the association panel for a new hearing to determine what type of touching occurred.
  3. The finding of referee abuse against the head referee was proper despite the appellant’s claim that he did not receive notice of the hearing because USSF Bylaw 701 was complied with when the state association mailed the notice letter three weeks before the hearing. The rule does not require the appellant to actually receive notice. Since he failed to retrieve the letter, the state association did not violate the rule. The appeals panel upheld this six month suspension.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-4, 2006-5, 2006-6:

Facts: The appellants were three coaches for a U-12 girls’ team. One coach was approached by the father of a team member that voiced his displeasure about the coaching of the team, the training ability and level of commitment of other players, team administration and the team in general. The appellants allege that the father had been disruptive at games and that they received several complaints about his conduct. In response, one coach told the father that the team would not likely change, and that his daughter would be better off playing on another team. In an email, the coach reiterated this and told the father he would sign the release papers for the player. The father responded by claiming that the club was cutting his daughter in violation of the state association rules on releasing players. No release papers were ever filed by the appellants but the player stopped receiving email notifications from the team. Appellants claim that a third party contacted the father, telling him his daughter could play for the team. The state association held a hearing and suspended all three coaches for one year for the illegal release of a player. Only the coach that sent the email participated at the hearing.

Decision: The appeals were GRANTED and the state association’s decision REVERSED. The appeals panel found that the two coaches who did not send the email were improperly found guilty because there was no evidence to support the allegations that they illegally released a player. Further, the appellant who was directly involved with the situation was also wrongly found guilty because there was no evidence that he actually released the player. No release papers were signed. The cessation of emails was inappropriate, the panel found, but there was no evidence that the player would not have been allowed to return to the team and participate.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-7:

Facts: The appellant, a USSF registered referee, was accused by another registered referee of misconduct away from a match. The accusing referee filed a complaint against the appellant claiming that he released negative and incorrect information about him to the referee community in violation of the state association’s policies and USSF Policy 531-10.2(B). Four members of the state association held a hearing, and found the appellant guilty of the charges. The appellant was suspended for two years.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the case was REMANDED back to the state association for a new hearing. The appeals panel held that there were numerous procedural flaws during the hearing that rendered the decision improper. Specifically, the panel found that:

  1. The state association’s letter of notice did not satisfy USSF Bylaw 701 because it did not specify the charges or provide factual allegations against the appellant;
  2. The state association hearing did not meet the requirements of USSF Policy 531-10 because only four members were appointed to hear the case, where the rule requires at least five; and
  3. The state association’s decision letter following the hearing did not meet USSF requirements because it did not specify how the appellant violated state association and USSF policies. It also failed to provide reasons that the punishment was appropriate.

The appeals panel held that the association should correct the mistakes and comply with all of the USSF Bylaws and Policies by holding a new hearing with new panel members.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-9:

Facts: The appellant was a player on a U-14 boys’ team. During a match, he became upset with a referee after the referee questioned him about his coach. The coach was the appellant’s father, and the appellant took offense to the question. He began to berate the referee verbally and was ejected. After the game, the appellant pushed the referee from behind and then punched him in the face. He had to be restrained from attacking the referee further. The referee filed a report five days later. The youth state association held a hearing and suspended the appellant for a year and ordered him to attend referee clinics.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the state association decision was UPHELD. The appeals panel found that the one year suspension was reasonable because the incident involved a physical assault. Further, the procedural missteps (a delay in report filing and delivery of appeals record and the participation of a panel member from the same district as the referee who was assaulted) did not warrant a reversal of the decision because the appellant was not prejudiced by them.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-10:

Facts: The appellant was a coach for a girl’s soccer club. He contacted the parents of another team’s player via email and suggested that she play for his club. The player would not have played for the appellant’s specific team. The state association held a hearing and suspended the appellant for six months for violating the state association’s rules on improper recruiting.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the state association decision was UPHELD. The appeals panel found that despite minor errors in the notice letter including a delay in the hearing process and a formatting error in the complaint, the state association’s decision was proper because the appellant’s due process rights were not violated. The appellant argued that the state association would not identify a witness in accordance with USSF Bylaw 701, which allows one to confront the witness against him. Although one member of the appeals panel believed this violation was severe enough to warrant a reversal of the decision, two other members concluded that the appellant was not prejudiced by the error. Lastly, the panel refused to reconsider the factual findings or interpretations of the association’s decision because they were reasonable and not arbitrary.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-11:

Facts: The appellant, a girls’ U-8 team coach, was disciplined after a confrontation with a minor referee. During the match, the appellant yelled at the referee about the calls he was making. At the end of the game, while tending to an injured player, the appellant again began to argue with the referee. The referee told the appellant to be quiet, and the appellant allegedly shoved him. The appellant claimed that the referee used harsh language and pointed at him and that he pushed the referee’s finger out of the way. The referee was not present at the state association’s hearing, and the appellant was suspended for three years and three games for referee abuse and assault.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the decision of the state association was REVERSED. The appeals panel found that while the appellant’s actions were inappropriate, the procedural flaws were sufficient to warrant the reversal of the decision. Specifically, the state association failed to give proper notice of the possible consequences of the charges. The appellant was also denied the right to confront the referee, a witness against him, pursuant to USSF Bylaw 701. The appeals panel held that the state association misconstrued the penalty for referee assault against a minor, which is three years only if the assault is more than a “minor or slight touching”. Since the state association did not make this factual distinction, the panel found that it wrongly applied the minimum penalty. The appeals panel also noted that the language used by the state association during the hearing, while not biased or prejudiced, was extremely hostile.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-13:

Facts: The appellant was a member of a U-10 girls’ team. After her father moved her from one club to another, he presented a birth certificate different from the one used to establish eligibility on the first team. The second birth certificate was deemed valid but would have made her ineligible to play on the U-10 team she had played on before. The first certificate was forged to make the appellant one year younger. She was suspended by the state association for one year after her father admitted to forging the document. On appeal to the state association, the appellant’s father testified that the first team forged the birth certificate without his knowledge and convinced him to cover it up.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the state association decision was REVERSED. The appeals panel found that the state association violated USSF Bylaw 701 by providing insufficient notice of the hearing. The notice letter sent to the appellant did not provide the possible consequences of her violation, which could have affected the outcome of the hearing. Specifically, the lack of proper notice may have affected the appellant’s decision not to appear at the hearing and instead be represented by her father. Further, the appellant’s father stated in the appeal that he was told by the coaches that if he admitted to forging the birth certificate, then his daughter would only face a suspension of two games at the most. Additionally, the written decision of the state association did not state what actions that the appellant herself committed.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-14:

Facts: The appellant was the president of a newly formed club that sent two hundred emails containing tryout information for the club. Some recipients of the emails were members of a competing club. The director of a competing club filed a complaint with the youth state association alleging that the emails violated the association’s recruiting rule against mass mailing. The state association held a hearing and suspended the appellant for one year from state association activities. The state association’s appeal panel reduced the scope of his suspension from all state association activities to administrative and coaching activities.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the state association decision was UPHELD. The appeals panel held that although there may have been some confusion on the interpretation of “mass mailing” according to the state association rules, the state association interpretation was not clearly erroneous.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-17:

Facts: The appellant was the president of a soccer club whose coach was found guilty of falsifying registration information, specifically, the age of a player. The appellant signed the roster which included the illegal player and also registered the player in the team’s online system. The youth state association held a hearing and found that the appellant intentionally circumvented the registration system and falsified the date of birth of the player resulting in a one year suspension from all activities, a three year suspension from the state association, a five year probation sentence and a fine of $250.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the state association’s decision REVERSED. The appeals panel found that despite the heavy burden of proof on the appellant, the state association’s decision was improper because the factual findings were clearly erroneous. Specifically, the appeals panel could not find any evidence to support the finding that the appellant intentionally violated the rules, nor did he do anything but register a player without first investigating her birth date. Therefore, the finding that he falsified documents was clearly erroneous.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-19:

Facts: The appellant, a player on a U-19 boys’ team, was suspended by a state association after he verbally threatened and had to be physically restrained from a referee. The appellant was angry with the referee’s handling of the game and was carded for dissent. The appellant then threatened the referees indicating that he would meet the referees in the parking lot. The state association held a hearing and suspended the appellant one year for referee abuse.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the case was REMANDED to the state association for a new hearing. The appeals panel found that the state association’s suspension of the appellant for one year was arbitrary and capricious in consideration of the minimum suspension for the offense, three games. The panel remanded the case back to the state association for a new hearing.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-20:

Facts: The appellant was a coach for a U-16 boys’ team. During a match, he became upset after the assistant referee failed to call off-sides resulting in a goal for the opposing team. The appellant ran towards the assistant referee, and the head referee separated them. In the exchange, the appellant shoved the head referee twice and head-butted the assistant referee. The appellant claimed that he may have unintentionally bumped into the referees. At the hearing, the appellant was represented by legal counsel but the youth state association did not allow the counsel to speak on behalf of the appellant. During the course of the hearing, the appellant was presented with several documents and photographs that he allegedly saw for the first time. The state association found him guilty of referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9 and suspended him for one year. The appellant appealed this decision to the state association appeals committee, and it upheld the decision.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the state association’s decision was UPHELD. The appellant argued that the state association introduced photographic and written evidence at the hearing that was not disclosed to him in a timely manner. The panel found that the disclosure of evidence was in accordance of USSF policy in that there is no specific requirement to submit evidence before the hearing, and the appellant had the opportunity to refute it. Additionally, he argued that the hearing panel violated USSF Bylaw 701, which entitles parties to be assisted in the presentation of their cases. The appeals panel found that while USSF Bylaw 701 permits a representative to speak on behalf of a party, it does not guarantee the right in all circumstances. Finally, the appeals panel concluded that the one year suspension was appropriate for referee assault.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-21:

Facts: The president of a soccer club acting as the director of a tournament was suspended from a state association for violating its rule that provides that tournament directors are responsible for ensuring that tournament check-in procedures are followed. At the tournament, a team’s registered coach left after the first match leaving the assistant coach that was not properly registered with the state association in charge. At the next game, the field marshal checked in the team with the assistant head coach posing as the head coach. During the match, a player from the team was sent off. After the game, the referee alleged that several players and spectators from the team chased and assaulted him. The state association found the president of the club guilty and the appellant was suspended from all activities for one year and fined $500.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the decision of the state association REVERSED. The appeals panel found that incident was likely outside of the appellant’s control. Also, the panel found that since the state association rule that governs administrator’s accountability for coach actions was worded subjectively, the rule was difficult to observe and implement. Therefore, the panel concluded that there was no specific evidence that could support the state association’s original decision. Further, the panel found that appellant was denied an opportunity to confront a witness testifying against him as required USSF Bylaw 701.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-22:

Facts: Appellant was a coach for a youth team. He was originally suspended three months and put on probation for 15 months for violating the touchline misconduct rules of a state youth association. Four months later, when he returned to coaching, he was suspended for violating the same rule. He was suspended for 6 months, and his probation extended for another 18 months. The next month he attended his son’s match, and was accused of acting as a coach by instructing players on the field. The state association held a hearing and extended his suspension and probation three months.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the state association’s decision was UPHELD. The appeals panel found that the state association’s factual findings were not arbitrary and capricious.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-23, 2006-24, 2006-25, 2006-26, 2006-27 2006- 28:

Facts: The appellants were members of a U-17 girls’ team. The team was scheduled to participate in the state association’s tournament finals, when one of the team’s trainers was dismissed. Ten players including the six appellants, protested this decision by refusing to play unless the trainer was reinstated. The trainer was not reinstated, and the team competed in the finals with only 7 members. After the finals, the team was scheduled to play in the regional finals. The players still refused to play despite the coach’s efforts to persuade them otherwise. The team forfeited, and after a hearing with the local association, the appellants attended a meeting with the supervisory committee. As a result of the meeting, the appellants were suspended for one year from all state and USSF activities for their voluntary failure to participate. The appellants appealed the suspension to the regional association’s appeal board claiming that they were denied due process. The board upheld the decision but reduced the suspensions of the appellants by six months. The appellants appealed the decision to the state association’s appeal board. All six appellants requested to have legal counsel present the case on their behalf, and all were denied the request. The state association did allow the attorneys to assist and advise the appellants. The state association upheld the suspensions.

Decision: The appeals were GRANTED and the state association’s decisions were REVERSED. The appeals panel held that the original hearing violated USSF Bylaw 701 by failing to provide notice of the charges and possible consequences in writing to the appellants. The panel also noted that while the USSF Bylaws provide that attorney representation may be allowed, it is not required. In reversing the decision, the panel did not grant the appellants’ request for relief of attorney’s fees and other costs because USSF Bylaw 705, Section 7 only allows the appeals panel to reverse, uphold or remand the decisions of an organization member.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-29:

Facts: The appellant, a member of the board of directors for a state association, was accused of breaching his fiduciary responsibility. He was relieved of his position after he arranged an informational meeting regarding another USSF organization member. The state association’s hearing panel found that the appellant’s contacting of another membership organization violated the state association’s rules, and dismissed him from his position.

Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the state association because the appellant’s dismissal violated procedural rules. Specifically the panel held that:

  1. The state association failed to inform the appellant about possible consequences of his alleged misconduct before his hearing violating USSF Bylaw 701.
  2. The state association violated a state procedural rule for dismissing a board member. The state statute provides that a director may only be removed by members of the region that elected the director. Because the board dismissed the appellant without a decision by the region members, the appeals panel reversed the sate association decision.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-30:

Facts: A youth state association suspended a coach of a U-16 boys’ team for one year after he allegedly grabbed an opposing player by the shirt. The incident occurred during a heated match where both teams exchanged words. After a hearing by the state association, the coach was found guilty of assault and suspended one year.

Decision: The appeal was DENIED and the decision of the state association panel was UPHELD. The panel found that the factual findings of the state association were not clearly erroneous, and thus would not reconsider them. Further, the appeals panel rejected the appellant’s argument that minor delays warranted a reversal of the hearing panel’s decision because they did not cause him prejudice.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-31:

Facts: The appellant, a coach, was suspended for entering his team in a tournament for which his team was ineligible. After the suspension was handed down, the appellant inquired about the appeals process. The president of the state association emailed the appellant a copy of the association’s appeals administration manual. The appellant alleges that the president of the county association told him that he would have 30 days to appeal the decision, when in fact he only had 10 days. The correct appeal information was included in the manual that was emailed to the appellant. Appellant filed his appeal 28 days after receiving the association’s decision, and the association rejected his appeal because it was untimely.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the case was REMANDED to the state association for an appeal hearing. The appeals panel held that neither the state nor county association specifically notified the appellant that he only had 10 days to submit his appeal because the manual was long and unclear in regards to the time required to apply for an appeal.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-32:

Facts: The appellant was a U-10 girls’ coach. He was disciplined after a confrontation with a minor referee. According to the referee and other witnesses, the appellant yelled at the referee. The appellant denied that claim and alleged that he was trying to tend to his injured daughter while the referee attempted to get his pay card signed. The soccer league suspended the appellant for referee abuse but the state association overturned the suspension based on a failure to provide due process and a lack of jurisdiction. The soccer league then held a hearing and suspended the appellant one year for misconduct. The appellant appealed the decision of the soccer league, and a three member appeals panel convened. Before a decision was made, the chairperson of the state appeals panel resigned. The remaining two members then upheld the suspension.

Decision: The appeal was GRANTED and the case was REMANDED to the state association appeals board for a new hearing. The appeals panel held that the state appeals panel violated its own rules by reaching a decision with only two members on the state appeals panels. The USSF appeals panel also noted that the delay was too long in between the appeal hearing and the decision, which probably violated USSF Bylaw 701, Section 9. Finally, the appeals panel upheld the findings of fact because they were not clearly erroneous.

USSF Appeal No. 2006-33:

Facts: The appellant, a youth assistant coach, intervened with an on-field altercation between his son and an opposing player. The appellant was unhappy with the opposing player’s reaction, and he became involved in a physical altercation with the opposing player’s father, which resulted in the appellant attempting to assault the referee, a 15 year old minor. The state association sent a letter to the appellant giving him notice of the charges against him and the hearing date. The letter was missing a page of USSF Policy 531-9, including the definition of referee abuse. The hearing panel found the appellant guilty of referee abuse and assault under USSF Policy 531-9.

Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The panel found that the minor error of omitting a page of USSF Policy 531-9 was insufficient to overturn the decision because the materials were readily available on the USSF website, or by request. Further, the appellant’s argument that materials were not available in a timely matter was also denied because the appellant did not suffer any prejudice as a result.

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