Synopses of 2004 Appeals Committee Decisions
Synopses of 2004 Appeals Committee DecisionsThe following are brief synopses of appeals cases considered by the Appeals Committee during 2004. 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[Note: Some appeals cases were assigned numbers and then dismissed or withdrawn before the Appeals Committee considered them – thus some appeals numbers are skipped below]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. 2004-1
Facts: The appellant, a coach, was accused of referee assault. When the referee ejected the coach from the game, the referee alleged that the coach “bumped” him and “slapped” the cards out of his hands. On November 24, 2003, a notice letter was sent to the coach informing him that it was alleged that he “assaulted a referee” and that a hearing was going to be held on December 4, 2003. The record indicates that the coach did not receive the letter until December 8, 2003. The hearing was held on December 4, 2003 without the coach being present, and the coach was found guilty of referee abuse and assault.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED for a new hearing because notice of the hearing was insufficient. Specifically, the panel held that:
1) the coach was genuinely ignorant of the hearing date of December 4, 2004;
2) even if the coach had known about the date of the hearing, the coach had an actual conflict that prevented him from appearing at the hearing; and
3) the substance of the notice letter was insufficient because it failed to cite specific rules that were violated, did not identify the potential consequences of the charges, and failed to identify the charge of referee abuse.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-2
Facts: The appellant, a coach, was accused of referee abuse and assault. The referees at the match were 14 years old. The coach repeatedly voiced dissent with the referees. At halftime, the coach informed the center referee that he was going to protest the game based on a poor call by the referees. After the game, the coach approached the center referee and noted that his game protest had not been recorded on the game sheet. According to the referee, the coach then “ripped the roster out of [his] hand.” The coach denied the referee’s version of events. A hearing was held on December 20, 2003, and the coach was found guilty of referee abuse and assault and suspended for four years. The chairperson of the hearing panel had previous experience with the coach but did not have a vote on the panel.
Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal because the facts supported the hearing panel’s decision. 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. The appeals panel also found that the coach was not prejudiced by the refusal to allow the testimony of a character witness with no first-hand knowledge of the events. Furthermore, the length of the suspension was appropriate based on Policy 531-9, which specifically requires that an assault of a minor referee result in a minimum three-year suspension.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-3
Facts: The state association held its annual general meeting and at that meeting, the appellant appeared, claiming that he had a proxy to represent a state association team. The state association president, however, contended that the appellant was simply at the meeting to “create problems” and asked for a vote of the membership to remove him from the room. A debate followed regarding whether the appellant could be removed. The state association minutes submitted, while unclear, suggest that the appellant stayed for the meeting. After the meeting, the state association Executive Committee sent a memorandum to the appellant informing him that it had decided that he “can not represent any league or team at [state association] meetings or any other function that involves any team or league.”
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case. The appeals panel found that if the state association believes that banning the appellant from its association is justified, it must follow appropriate procedures. In this instance, those procedures would include a hearing with the associated due process rights. The fact that an individual has not yet been a member does not mean that they can be banned from membership without any justification, guidelines, or due process.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-4
Facts: An assistant coach for a U-12 girls team registered with the state association registered his daughter on the team. Eight days later, the appellant’s daughter registered on another U-12 team in a neighboring town. The state association rules provided that a player may be rostered and play on more than one team; however, the player may not have more than one “primary pass.” If a player is rostered on a second team, she must be issued a “secondary” pass. The appellant as well as the head coaches for the teams admitted that the daughter was registered for both teams on a primary pass. They each contend this was merely an administrative mistake; they claim that it was the understanding of all involved that the daughter would be primarily registered to one team and would only play for the other team on those few occasions where she had no commitment to her primary team. The Discipline Committee placed the coaches on “probation.” The appellant was suspended from coaching and training for one year and seven months “since he knew his daughter was carded to both teams and did not verify she had been released.” The state association subsequently issued a new memorandum, stating the Discipline Committee reviewed the decision and amended the suspension to run for only seven months.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal. It was unclear to the panel why the violation in question merited a suspension, in light of the absolute lack of evidence that there was any malicious intent or the violation was due to anything other than an administrative error. The panel understood the decision to place the two head coaches on probation. It was unclear why, if a suspension is the appropriate discipline, that the appellant was being disciplined more harshly than the head coaches for the two teams involved. Without further explanation of the decision, or some specific guidelines spelling out how decisions of this sort are made, the suspension struck the panel as arbitrary. In sum, the panel found that the appellant met his burden of showing that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and that his appeal must be granted.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-5
Facts: The appellant, a referee and member of the state referee committee, attended a tournament at which he spoke with an official (and national assessor) and asked him to assess one of the referees officiating at the tournament. The appellant informed the official that the referee in question had requested this assessment from the SDA, but had never heard a response. The official noted that it is up to the SDA to accept or reject an assessment, based on whether the assessment had been properly requested, but agreed to perform the assessment. The official then spoke with the referee in question directly. The referee denied that he had ever requested an assessment from the SDA. After the tournament, the official sent a letter to the SDA setting forth what had happened, and stating that he was quite concerned that the appellant had lied to him. The SDA sent a letter to the state association asking that they take action against the appellant. The state association referee committee met to consider certain communications that had been forwarded to them by the youth referee association. The appellant had been contacting the youth referee association, seeking its endorsement (of him) as the next State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA). Some of the appellant’s communications, after he was informed that he would not be endorsed, were quite confrontational. The hearing panel found that the appellant had violated USSF Policy 531-10 (Misconduct of Game Officials) and USSF Policy 531-11 (Code of Ethics). The appellant was suspended from all active participation in USSF for six months
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association. The appeals panel found that: 1) the notice letter satisfactorily notified the appellant of the charges, the rules involved, and the hearing details; 2) while the decision letter could have been more precise, it sufficiently notified the appellant of the decision against him; and 3) 3 ½ weeks notice was more than sufficient. However, four of the seven hearing committee members were also members of the State Referee Association. This issue caused the appeals panel great concern. First, USSF Policy 531-10 specifically states that a hearing panel considering charges of misconduct by an official cannot include “the [SRA], the [SDI], the [SDA], . . . or any other member of the State Referee Administration.” It seems relatively certain that a member of the State Referee Committee would count as someone who is in “administration.” The panel believed that USSF Policy 531-10 implies that these officials (the SRA, SDI, etc.) are not the only administrative members – it prohibits using them “or any other” member of administration. Thus, the panel believed that it was improper to place members of the State Referee Committee on the hearing panel. Furthermore, the charges brought against the appellant were first brought before the State Referee Committee. That committee voted to hold a hearing, and issued a letter (through its secretary) stating that there was “just cause to bring charges” and further nothing that “the referee committee feel[s] he has broken the code of ethics . . . .” It seems inappropriate to have the same committee that has already concluded there was a violation to have members make up the majority of the hearing committee. The panel noted that the appellant was given the opportunity to object to the make-up of the hearing committee. He did not object to members of the State Referee Committee being on the panel. However, the panel did not believe it could fairly be said that the hearing panel was impartial and unbiased where four of its members belonged to a committee that had already voted that the appellant had violated the code of ethics.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-6, 2004-7
Facts: A manager for a U-14 team and his wife, a former administrative for the club and a provider of administrative assistance to the U-14 team, were each suspended for two years for violating rules regarding the addition of players and release. The region held a hearing on these charges and concluded that the three individuals “worked together to remove player from the [team’s] spring roster without securing the proper release form. Furthermore, [the coach’s and manager’s] action by circulating a letter that indicated that [the registrar] had acted improperly as the Club Registrar did demean his reputation as a club officer.” The region suspended each of them for two years, with the possibility of serving the second year under probation by complying with several conditions (including letters of apology). The team manager and his wife appealed this decision to the state association. The state association upheld the decision in all respects.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeals. The team manager and his wife submitted a joint brief containing fifteen arguments in support of their appeal. After careful consideration of all of the arguments raised, the panel was able to identify only two issues that raised any concern. First, there was an extensive delay between the activities at issue and the disciplinary proceedings. Second, there was some question about whether there was a “conflict” that warranted removal of the region chair from the hearing. On neither of these issues, however, did the appellants satisfy their burden of showing prejudice that would support a finding of a due process violation.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-8, 2004-9, 2004-10, 2004-12
Facts: Three coaches for a U-12 team were upset with a decision by their board to deny permission from a U-11 girl to “play up” for the U-12 team. They approached another club about forming a team with this club instead. They advised the parents that they had three choices: have their child stay; have their child leave and look for a new club; or find another club that would accept all the girls and keep them together. They further informed the parents that they would be starting up a team with the another club. The coaches announced their resignation the next day. The original club immediately called a meeting to advise players and parents of their options and to persuade them to stay with the team. The coaches and a parent, however, continued to advise the parents about how to switch to the new club. The parent sent out an email on behalf of one coach. In response to a concern that had been raised about whether the new team would be able to participate in a league, she wrote “[Coach] has already been in touch with the president of [a league] and we WILL be registered with the league for THIS season . . .. The old team is not aware that we (the coaches) have already resolved these issues before we ever made our decision to leave.” The parent went on to offer advice as to how to get the children released: “You must send the email to [the old club] (as per my last email) IMMEDIATELY in order to have your child released from [the old club] so we can transfer them before the deadline. Send your emails requesting the release of your daughter no later than TODAY.” (emphasis in original). Twelve players from the original U-12 girls’ team subsequently transferred to the new U-12 team. The old club submitted a letter of complaint to the state association, alleging that the coaches and the parent had violated poaching rules. The state association notified the appellants that they had received the letter from the old club and that they would hold a hearing to consider poaching charges. When one coach requested a witness list from the state association, they sent back an email listing a number of individuals who might testify. The state association also asked for the witness list of appellants, but appellants refused to provide one. The state association regional appeals committee held a hearing, at which each of the appellants testified and presented several witnesses. The regional committee determined that each had committed a poaching violation, and suspended each for the minimum term of six months. Appellants appealed the regional committee’s decision to the state association Protest and Appeals Committee. The Protest and Appeals Committee upheld the hearing decision in all respects.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal of all four appellants. The appeals panel found that appellants received proper notice, which cited specific rules, as well as, the complaint letter that sets out in detail the poaching allegations. The appeals panel also found that the appellants were each sufficiently notified as to the decision of the hearing panel. Although the state association did prohibit certain witnesses from testifying, the witnesses indicated they could provide nothing that was not duplicative of testimony already offered. The appeals panel also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing panel’s factual findings and the email alone would support the hearing panel’s findings. While the panel agrees that the state association could have been more exact when discussing the different appellants, the issues raised made no difference in the ultimate conclusion of the hearing panel.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-11
Facts: A player/manager for a men’s amateur team was suspended for one year for playing an ineligible player in a game. The appellant’s team participated in the tournament semi-final. After the game, one of the players on his team got in a verbal altercation with the referee. The state association determined that the player would be suspended for one game for his altercation with the referee, and sent notice to him, with a copy to the appellant. Despite learning of the suspension during the course of the next game, the appellant decided to allow the suspended player to continue playing. The state was notified that the player played in the game. The commissioner notified the appellant that his team was disqualified from the tournament, and requested that the state Executive Committee consider further action. The state president notified the appellant by telephone that the Executive Committee would be considering the matter at its next meeting. He was invited to supply a written argument defending his actions. The appellant did submit a written statement. The Executive Committee considered the issue and sent out a decision, stating that the appellant would be suspended for one year from all soccer activities.
Decision: The panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal. Because the appellant was not provided a hearing, the panel concluded that his suspension should be lifted immediately. The Executive Committee meeting, where the decision to suspend him was made, did not qualify as a “hearing.” The appellant was not given the opportunity to present his case, confront witnesses, or rebut evidence presented against him
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-13
Facts: A head coach was suspended for sixty (60) days for violating the state association’s anti-tampering rules for improperly recruiting players from another club. Another coach complained that the appellant had improperly recruited four players. The rule at issue reads: “It is unethical to recruit players while they are registered on another team.” The state association conducted a hearing to consider these charges. At the hearing, the complaining coach withdrew his allegation pertaining to one player. The hearing panel also concluded that there was insufficient evidence relating to another. The hearing panel found that the appellant had improperly recruited two of the players, in violation of the rules, and issued a decision suspending him for 60 days.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found that there was sufficient documentary evidence that both players were registered with another team, and there was evidence that both players had contact with the appellant’s team. They also found that the appellant received due process and that there is no evidence that a suspension of 2 months for recruiting violations is arbitrary or somehow inconsistent with how others with similar violations have been disciplined.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-15
Facts: A father of a player who played for a U-13 Girls team grew dissatisfied with the way the team was being run. He asked about the possibility of playing in another club, and they eventually asked him to start a team. The father sent an e-mail to the remaining parents on the old U-13 team, explaining that he had decided to leave and coach a team that is the same age level. He indicated that he thought he could offer the players and parents “an alternative.” He stated that he was “cordially inviting” the parents to “join me at sign-ups.” The old club sent a letter to the state association complaining that the father had improperly recruited their players, and noted that considering how many players had already left it was likely the team would have to fold. Indeed, four players on the team asked to leave within one week after the e-mail. Two more left within one month. The state association held a hearing and heard testimony from the father and two other team parents. The committee considered the complaint letter from the club, but it appears that the author of the letter was unable to attend the hearing. The father admitted to sending the e-mail in question, and noted that he had never coached before and that the e-mail was simply a “good-bye” to the other parents. It was not clear why the author did not attend the hearing but he may have experienced car trouble. The state association decision states that the father was told he could wait, but eventually agreed to go ahead without the author. The committee concluded that the father had violated the state association Constitution and Bylaws, which provides: “No team, club, coach, or player or any other person may approach a registered player to leave his club.” The committee suspended the father for one year.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal. The appeals panel found that there was no notice letter in the record on appeal. In its decision, the state association stated that the father was notified of the complaint and that a hearing was scheduled, but did not suggest that the father was notified of the charges against him or the possible consequences. In its argument on appeal, the state association did not address this issue at all.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-16
Facts: An administrator and assistant coach for a boys’ U-11 team overheard a parent of a player telling the other parents that he was “stupid.” The appellant admitted that when he overheard the parent say this, he told her that her son could not be part of the program anymore. He also admitted that he told the parent that she would need to return the soccer gear assigned to the player before they left. The player then removed his uniform there on the sideline. The parent stated that he started to scream and swear repeatedly at her. She also stated that his face was “beet red” and that “he was screaming hysterically,” “screamed at her to shut up and told her repeatedly that she was ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb.’” Another parent stated that the assistant coach told the parent that if she left, her son was off the team and that she was “f***ing it up for [her son].” The other parent said that as the parent and her son were trying to leave, the assistant coach “demanded that they turn [the player’s] uniform over to him right then. He proceeded to make that young boy strip down to his underwear, in front of his entire team.” The state association notified the assistant coach that it would hold a hearing to consider charges that he had violated a state rule, which provides that an individual can be charged with engaging in conduct unacceptable to the best interests of youth soccer. The state association held this hearing and issued its decision finding that the assistant coach had acted in a way that was not in the best interests of youth soccer. The state association suspended the assistant coach for 90 days, but indicated that the suspension would be commuted to probation if he submitted an acceptable apology letter to the parent and her son. The state association also placed the assistant coach on probation for two years and fined him $250. The assistant coach was informed that his letter of apology was due by June 1, and his fine was due by June 15.
Decision: By a 2-1 vote, the panel DENIED the appeal. The panel unanimously found that (1) the testimony and complaint letter, as well as some of the admissions from the assistant coach, sufficiently support the factual findings of the hearing panel and (2) the hearing panel was not biased or prejudiced. One panel member felt that the parent should have testified at the hearing and that the charges against the assistant coach were unacceptably broad and vague. However, a majority of the panel believed that the parent’s failure to testify was not grounds for granting the appeal and that the language in the rule and the notice letter were sufficiently detailed to support the discipline levied against assistant coach.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-17
Facts: A player on a Boys U-15 team head butted an opposing player after some words were exchanged and the opposing player approached him in what he felt was a “threatening manner.” The appellant admits that he “head butted” the player. The state association held a hearing to consider the charges against the player and ruled that the player had committed non-referee assault and had violated its “accountability” rule that states that an individual can be charged for conduct “unacceptable to the best interests of youth soccer.” The state association indicated the discipline would be as follows:
1. The player will serve a period of Suspension for each rule violation. All penalties will be served concurrently (together). Suspension will begin May 1, 2004 through April 30, 2005. However the period from October 31, 2004 through April 30, 2005 will be held in abeyance and commuted to probation if you complete 20 hours of community service by October 31, 2004 . . ..
2. The player will serve a period of Probation. Probation will begin November 1, 2004 through October 31, 2004 if the service is completed. If the service is not completed, probation will be May 1, 2005 through April 30, 2007.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found that there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that he assaulted another player. The appeals panel was sympathetic to the argument that the 15 year-old boy cannot be expected to understand the hearing process, organize a defense, or challenge witnesses or evidence when his parents (who do not speak English) are able to offer so little help. However, the appeals panel found that the state association acted within the rules. Lastly, the appeals panel found that the punishment while severe was not arbitrary or capricious.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-18
Facts: A boys’ team coach that also served as vice president of the local soccer association Rules Committee was the appellant. It was alleged that the appellant did not have certain players sit out a game (as required under rules), and that for certain players who were supposed to sit out three games, he changed the suspension to one game for red card violations. The appellant admitted, in an email, that he had reviewed the referee reports for certain games, and had changed three game suspensions to one game suspensions. He believed that this was within his authority as vice president of Rules. The local soccer association asked for assistance in hearing the matter from the state association since there were concerns that it could not hold an impartial hearing. The state association, in turn, referred the matter to the regional appeals committee covering the local soccer association area. The regional appeals committee offered to have another regional appeals committee hear the case, but the appellant objected to traveling 120 miles (where the hearing would need to be held if another region heard the case). The hearing panel determined that the appellant had unilaterally reduced the suspensions of several players on his team, and that this was outside the scope of his authority. The hearing panel suspended the appellant for 5 years as a coach, and 10 years as an administrator, board member, or officer. The appellant appealed this decision to state association’s protest and appeals committee. That committee upheld the decision in all respects.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The panel did not believe failure to file the initial charging letter with a particular party was grounds for granting the appeal. Regardless of whether there was a technical violation of a rule, the appellant was afforded a complete hearing and chance to defend himself. The use “derisive and acrimonious words” by the hearing panel was not evidence that they were biased. Regardless of the appellant’s position as vice president of Rules, he should never have attempted to use any authority to reduce suspensions issued against players on his own team – that was clearly and obviously a conflict of interest. Whether he had the authority or not, he should have realized that it would be unethical to use it.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-19
Facts: The head coach for an ODP team sent around an email to a number of people describing a “free tournament” for U-15 boys and girls. He signed the email “Tournament Director.” The state association Programs Coordinator, sent an email reply informing head coach that this tournament was “NOT an [sic] sanctioned event” and requesting that he not “use [state association] contact information.” The state association received a photograph of a team (consisting of ODP players from the assistant coach’s team) posing with winner’s medals around their necks for the tournament. The head coach and assistant coach were both in the picture. The state association sent a letter to both coaches informing them that they had been removed from the ODP staff. The state association also sent a letter to the head coach indicating that a disciplinary hearing was set and that the coaches were accused of “abusing their position as ODP coach and member of the ODP staff in violation of [the state association’s policy].” The head coach also wrote an email to the state association stating that he had a “prior commitment” and thus would be unavailable for the hearing. The state association denied his request for the extension. The state association held the hearing and the head coach did not attend. The hearing panel determined that the head coach knowingly violated ODP policies, knowingly defrauded the state association by causing it to pay for the practice field, exposed ODP players to risk of injury without insurance, and did not adequately inform players and parents that the tournament was unsanctioned. The head coach was suspended for one year and placed on probation for two additional years.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case back to the state association. The appeals panel found that the state association did not provide the head coach with sufficient notice of the hearing and the charges. The panel did not believe that four days was sufficient time to prepare one’s case. Further, the notice letter contained nothing to indicate what exactly state association was charging. The letter simply stated that he was accused of “abusing [his] position as ODP coach.” The panel was more concerned about this lack of notice in light of the fact that the head coach did not attend. The panel found that the state association has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to schedule the hearing for a time that the accused can attend, and failed in this instance. In addition to concerns about notice, the panel also noted that there was not a single piece of evidence in the record that supported the finding that the head coach had coached the team in question in the tournament, or had any role in entering them or registering them in the tournament.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-20
Facts: A coach for a Boys’ U-17 team was suspended for six months for yelling back at an opposing player that was his student that he would “see” him at school. The referee for the match did not hear any comments from the opposing player, but did hear the coach’s reaction. The referee wrote in his report that the coach “threatened” the player, and told him “4-5 times” that he would “see [him] in class.”
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found: 1) that there was sufficient evidence to support the decision of the state association; 2) the state association made sufficient efforts to get the opposing player to attend the hearing; and 3) the delay in the hearing and submission of the record were insufficient grounds to grant the appeal.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-21
Facts: A coach for a girls’ U-11 team was suspended for three months, placed on probation for an additional year, and required to take a referee course and referee ten games for violation of a state association rule regarding accountability and conduct. Before a match, the coach spoke to the referees for the game, quizzing them on how to call offsides plays. There was then a verbal altercation between the coach and the center referee. The coach admitted that he was angry and confronted the referee. The coach was charged with referee abuse as well as violation of the state association rule on accountability and conduct. At the hearing, the assistant referee testified, as did the coach and two girls from his team. The state association found that the coach was not guilty of referee abuse, but was guilty of violating the state association rule.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found that the referee’s foul language did not justify the coach’s reaction. The hearing panel also noted that there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing panel’s findings, and thus there was no ground for upholding the appeal.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-22
Facts: An assistant coach for an ODP team was suspended. The head coach for the team sent around an email to a number of people describing a “free tournament” for U-15 boys and girls. He signed the email “Tournament Director.” The state association Programs Coordinator, sent an email reply informing the head coach that this tournament was “NOT an [sic] sanctioned event” and requesting that he not “use [state association] contact information.” The state association received a photograph of a team (consisting of ODP players from the assistant coach’s team) posing with winner’s medals around their necks for the tournament. The head coach and assistant coach were both in the picture. The state association sent a letter to both coaches informing them that they had been removed from the ODP staff. The state association also sent a letter to the assistant coach indicating that a disciplinary hearing was set and that the coaches were accused of “abusing their position as ODP coach and member of the ODP staff in violation of [the state association’s policy].” The notice letter to the assistant coach was sent to an address that the assistant coach claimed was not his address, but instead the address of one of his players. The state association, in turn, contended that this was an official address provided to the state association by the assistant coach. In any event, the assistant coach contends that he did not receive the notice letter until two days before the hearing. However, it appears that he learned that a package had been sent to his player’s house and emailed the state association about it. In response, the state association indicated that the hearing would be two days later. The assistant coach also wrote a letter (sent by email) to the state association stating that he would be “out of town” and thus unavailable for the hearing. He asked for a “mutually agreeable date” to “meet and discuss the latest events.” The assistant coach claims that he spoke with the state association the next day, and his “request for extension was denied.” The state association held the hearing and the assistant coach did not attend. The hearing panel determined that the assistant coach knowingly violated ODP policies, knowingly defrauded the state association by causing it to pay for the practice field, exposed ODP players to risk of injury without insurance, and did not adequately inform players and parents that the tournament was unsanctioned. The assistant coach was suspended for one year and placed him on probation for two additional years.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case back to the state association. The appeals panel found that the state association did not provide the assistant coach with sufficient notice of the hearing and the charges. The panel did not believe that four days was sufficient time to prepare one’s case. Further, the notice letter contains nothing to indicate what exactly state association was charging. The letter simply states that he is accused of “abusing [his] position as ODP coach.” The panel was more concerned about this lack of notice in light of the fact that the assistant coach did not attend. The panel found that the state association has an obligation to make reasonable efforts to schedule the hearing for a time that the accused can attend, and failed in this instance
USSF Appeal No. 2004-24
Facts: The appellant, a coach for a U-9 girls’ team, contended that the referee for a match repeatedly failed to call blatant fouls committed by the opposing team. He also contended that the referee was rude to him (telling him to “shut up” and to learn the rules). After the game, the referee contended that he approached the appellant and asked him to sign the game card. The referee further contended that the appellant took the game card but then proceeded to “dissent.” The referee stated that, in an effort to avoid confrontation, he walked away and went to his car. The referee still had the player passes in his car – when the appellant realized this, he approached the referee’s car asking for the player passes back. The referee and the appellant dispute some details of what happened next. The appellant contended that he was behind the car and the referee started backing toward him. The appellant stepped out of the way, which then placed him in front of the car (as it continued to move backwards), and the referee then drove forward toward him, causing the appellant to fall on to the hood of the car. A parent from the appellant’s team then ran over, pulled the appellant off the hood, and as the referee continued to drive forward, slapped at the window to get him to stop. The referee alleged that he was trying to get away from the field to avoid confrontation, but that the appellant intentionally got in front of the car to prevent him from leaving. He alleged that he attempted to steer away from the appellant, but the appellant “jumped” in front of the car. He then contended that the parent ran over and started to bang on the car, before he was finally able to drive away. Once the referee started to drive away, he stopped and rolled down his window to tell the parent and the referee that they had just committed referee assault. The state association held a hearing and heard testimony from the appellant, the parent, the referee, and a few other witnesses. The hearing panel issued its decision, finding that the appellant committed referee abuse because he followed the referee to his car. The state association suspended the appellant for six months and fined him $100.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. On appeal, the appellant raised a number of points about the behavior of the referee, questioned his motives, and implied that the referee may have had a conflict of interest through his relationship with the opposing team. The appeals panel held that the way in which the referee behaves, whether he should have been officiating in the first place, or whether separate charges should be brought against the referee, had no bearing on the appeal. The hearing panel also determined that the act of walking toward the referee’s car, while yelling, was an implied threat sufficient to support the finding of referee abuse. Lastly, the appeals panel found that there was nothing to indicate that the six-month suspension was arbitrary or capricious.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-25
Facts: A parent of a player who plays on a U-9 girls’ team contended that the referee for a match repeatedly failed to call blatant fouls committed by the opposing team and exhibited bias in favor of the opposing team. After the match, the coach and the referee had an argument. The referee left the pitch without returning the player passes to the coach. The coach followed the referee to the car. The coach ended up on the hood of the referee’s car. The parent then ran over, pulled the coach off the hood, and as the referee continued to drive forward, hit the car to get him to stop. Once the referee started to drive away, he stopped and rolled down his window to tell the coach and the parent that they had just committed referee assault. The state association held a hearing and issued its decision, finding that the parent committed referee assault because he hit the referee’s car with his hand. The state association suspended the parent for one year and fined him $250.
Decision: By a unanimous decision, the appeals panel DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found that there was sufficient evidence to support the decision of the hearing panel. The fact that the hearing panel gave the parent more than the minimum suspension for assault was not an indication that they were acting arbitrarily or inconsistently with other hearing panels. The appeals panel found that there was nothing to indicate that this decision was arbitrary or capricious.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-26
Facts: The appellant, a referee, checked the box “No” in response to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a felony, a crime of violence, any crime against an individual, or fraud?” on his 2004 referee registration form. State Referee Committee (“SRC”) learned from a background check that the appellant had been convicted in 1989 of “Fraud – Unemployment Compensation.” SRC notified the appellant that it had received an allegation that he had incorrectly answered the question on the referee form. It scheduled a hearing, and the appellant appeared at the hearing. The hearing panel determined that he was guilty of violating USSF Policy 531-10 (prohibiting “misconduct or conflict of interest . . . or abuse of authority”). The hearing panel suspended the appellant through the end of the year but allowed him to attend recertification clinics so that he can re-register at the beginning of 2005. The appellant appealed this decision to state association. The state association upheld the decision.
Decision: The panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. On appeal, the appellant argued that his violation had no real affect on his role as an official. However, he did not dispute that he incorrectly answered the form. The hearing panel was thus justified to find that he had committed “unethical conduct.” Furthermore, the panel found that there was nothing to suggest that the penalty was so arbitrary or capricious as to merit reversal.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2004-27, 2004-28, 2004-29
Facts: Three coaches serve as coaches for a girls’ U-9 team registered. All three coaches were listed on the game roster, but one coach was not listed on the team roster prepared before the season (he was, however, rostered and carded as a coach for another team within the same club). During a game, the referee issued a red card to one coach. At the conclusion of the game, while the referee was going through the cards, another coach approached him. The referee realized he only had two coaches’ cards, and asked which one he should retain (for the red card paperwork). The coach told him it was not one of the two he had, and took the coaches cards and went back to where the team and parents had congregated. The referee subsequently approached the coach. He indicated that he needed a coaching pass, and if there was none for the coach that received the red card he would need to retain the other coach’s. While there is some dispute about who initiated contact, both agree that as the referee was reaching for the coaching card, the coach grabbed the referee’s wrist. The state association held a hearing and ruled that one coach had violated rules requiring that he be listed on the team’s roster, and that the other coaches had impermissibly “allowed Dennis Burns to coach on the coach’s sidelines without a coach’s pass in his possession and he was not carded to their team.” The state association suspended each of them through December 31, 2004. The state association further ruled that the coach that grabbed the referee’s wrist had committed referee assault, and thus suspended him from January 1, 2005 through August 31, 2005.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeals regarding referee assault and the failure of one coach to be on the team roster. However, the appeals panel by a 2-1 vote GRANTED the appeal of the two coaches found guilty of allowing the third coach to coach without appropriate paperwork. The majority of the appeals panel noted that the hearing panel heard absolutely no evidence regarding the two coaches role in the administration of the team, so it is impossible to determine whether either or both of them (a) should have known that the third coach was not properly carded or (b) had any responsibility for making sure the paperwork was properly completed. In the matter of the two coaches appeal of the determination that they “allowed” the third coach to coach, the appeal was REMANDED and the state association was given the opportunity to hold a new hearing within 30 days, with a new hearing panel.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-30
Facts: A soccer association operating under the state association has a board of trustees. One of the clubs that participates in the soccer association is a premier club. A player on various premier club teams and his parents have served in a variety of administrative and coaching roles on those teams. The soccer association contended that the father of the player, during a period of several years, harassed and disrespected staff and volunteers at meetings and events. At the regular monthly meeting of the soccer association, the board held an executive session and considered complaints they had received about the father. The board unanimously decided to ban the father from further participation. The board also indicated that he and his wife must agree that his wife would be the sole person responsible for any communication or contact with the soccer association on behalf of their son. The board enclosed a form for the father to sign indicating he was resigning, and for both he and his wife to sign indicating they accepted the terms spelled out in the letter. The letter concluded by saying that if they did not accept these conditions, the player would not be permitted to participate in any soccer association programs. They refused to sign this agreement. The parents filed individual grievances protesting the soccer association action. The premier club also filed a grievance. The district hearing board heard the grievance and reached a compromise decision that allowed the player to play but limited the father’s participation. The soccer association filed an appeal and the player and his parents filed new grievances with the state association. The state association held a hearing on these grievances. It issued a set of orders, concluding that the board had improperly barred the player and his parents from participation without due process, and had willfully violated the state association and USSF bylaws by continuing to interfere with the right to participate after the a district decision. The state association ruled that the father would remain registered and rostered as an assistant coach, his wife would remain registered and rostered as a team manager, and the player would remain registered and rostered as a player, and that the soccer association must submit documentary evidence that it was complying with these orders. The orders specifically stated that if the soccer association failed to “strictly comply in substance and in form,” then the individual board members would be suspended for one year. The soccer association held an emergency board meeting and voted to comply with the state association orders. The soccer association submitted a letter to the state association the next day, with attached paperwork, contending that they were in compliance. The state association disagreed, finding that the paperwork was not what had been ordered, and thus that the soccer association was still not in compliance. The state association then suspended each individual board member.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The panel first considered the issue of standing. An appeal must be filed by the person who is affected by the decision in question. Generally, as most appeals involve specific individuals who are being denied the right to participate, the appeal must be filed by that individual. Here, the soccer association submitted a group appeal on behalf of eight individual board members. However, the panel did not wish to unnecessarily add further delay to a case that has already been going on for many months because even if the appeals were properly filed, the panel would deny each of them. The state association sufficiently detailed the ways in which the soccer association’s paperwork was insufficient.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-31
Facts: The appellant, a coach for a girls’ U-14 team, ran onto the field yelling at the referee and was ejected at the conclusion of a match. The assistant referee alleged that he asked the appellant his name so he could pull his coaching pass. He reported that the appellant refused, and then “grabbed my hand and tried to pull the passes away from me.” The assistant referee contended that the appellant “yanked at the passes” one more time and continued to use “offensive, insulting, and abusive language toward the officials including numerous profanities.” The state association notified the appellant that he was suspended for alleged assault and that a hearing would take place to consider the charges. The appellant contended that he tried several times to get this hearing rescheduled. After a month of discussions, the official finally sent an email setting a hearing date for four days after he sent the email. The appellant responded the next day, stating that three days’ notice was not enough time, and further stating that he would be out of town for a wedding and not back until Sunday evening. The state association chose to proceed anyway. The official responded on the next evening, stating that they would proceed with the hearing, regardless of whether the appellant attended, and invited “anyone with first-hand knowledge of the alleged incident to testify as to the facts of the case.” The hearing was held, and the hearing panel ruled that the appellant had committed referee assault and should be suspended for nine months.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal. The appellant’s sole argument was that the state association did not comply with the requirement that they schedule a hearing at a place and time at which it was practicable for him. The panel reviewed the details of the scheduling discussions between the parties in detail. The panel found that both parties were unreasonable in their efforts to agree on a hearing date. The state association was entitled to decide that the hearing had to take place on a weekend. The appellant, in turn, wished to eliminate most weekends from consideration. He was not entitled to do so. However, the delays in communication of over 20 days by the state association that took place were also inexcusable. When the state association finally did schedule a hearing, the appellant contended that the notice provided (3 days) was insufficient for him to prepare his defense. The panel disagreed. Given the number of dates that the appellant had vetoed, the state association was entitled to move forward with the hearing.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-33
Facts: During a game, the coach for a U-9 boys team repeatedly voiced dissent with calls by the three referees that were minors. The referees contended that he was “cursing and screaming” at them. Immediately after the game, the coach approached one of the assistant referees, and discussed the referring of the game. The other assistant referee then gave the coach a red card. The assistant referee that issued the red card contended that the coach then approached him and grabbed for the card and grabbed him and threw him to the ground. The state association held a hearing to consider charges that the coach had committed referee assault and referee abuse. The hearing was originally scheduled at an earlier date but was moved at the coach’s request. The state association found that the coach committed referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. The appeals panel found no specific examples of pre-judgment to support the unsubstantiated claim that a “source close” to the state association confirmed that the case had been decided before the hearing. The state association also properly excluded letters from the hearing because they were not notarized in accordance with the state association’s rules. Furthermore, one letter that was notarized was accepted into evidence and included in the record. The appeals panel also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing panel’s findings.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-34
Facts: The appellant was appointed to the position of referee assignor by adult state association. The youth state referee assignor sought out referees for the State Cup matches. Among the referees that agreed to assignments were referees that normally refereed adult matches in the state. When the referees that normally officiated adult matches informed the appellant that they would be unavailable for assignment because of the State Cup, the appellant told them that he needed them to be available to referee matches that he was responsible for assigning. Ultimately, the referees officiated adult matches rather than the State Cup games that they had previously agreed to attend. After the referees failed to appear at the State Cup, a complaint was filed against the appellant with the youth state association for violating the Code of Ethics for Assignors and the Game Priority in Referee Appointments. After learning of the complaint, the adult state association wrote a letter to the youth stating that the adult state association had jurisdiction over the appellant and that the adult association should hold the hearing. After two postponements of the disciplinary hearing, a hearing was held by the youth association. The appellant notified the youth association that he believed that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the complaint. The appellant did not appear at the hearing but did not dispute that he received notice of the hearing. The youth referee assignor and two of the referees involved testified at the hearing. After the hearing, the youth association issued the decision to suspend the appellant for one year.
Decision: The panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal. The panel considered the issue of jurisdiction over the appellant. The panel found that under the policies of U.S. Soccer, the youth association had no jurisdiction to hear the complaint against the appellant. Under Policy 531-10 – Misconduct of Game Officials Section (B) Misconduct Away From a Match, when a referee assignor is accused of misconduct away from a match “the matter shall vest immediately in the State Association through which the accused game official is registered or through which the referee development program person is appointed.” There is no dispute that the appellant was appointed by adult association. Of special importance to the panel was the fact that the adult association informed youth association that the adult association had jurisdiction over the matter. Despite the letter, the youth association never referred the matter to the adult association. Nothing in the opinion should be construed as preventing the adult association from conducting a hearing on the matter.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-35
Facts: The appellant was a coach for a U-14 boys team. During a game, a red card was issued to a player by the referee. According to the referee, the parent of the player entered the field after the red card was issued and the appellant followed the parent and screamed obscenities at the referee. The referee instructed the appellant to return to the sidelines and the matched continued. After the game, the referee contended that the appellant approached him, “chest bumped” him, and used obscene and abusive language. After the teams shook hands, the appellant demanded the player passes from the referee. When the referee requested a roster before the player passes were returned, the appellant grabbed the player passes from the referee’s hand and twisted the referees thumb on a metal ring that was attached to the player passes. The appellant denied these allegations. The state association held a hearing to consider charges that the appellant had committed referee assault and referee abuse. The state association held that the appellant committed referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9 and suspended him for seven months.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal. The panel found: that the decision letter was sufficient although they would have preferred a more detailed decision letter; there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing panel’s findings; “chest bumping” and grabbing player passes from the referee qualify as referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9; a suspension of approximately seven months was appropriate.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-36
Facts: A coach for a girls' under 9 soccer team was ejected from the field for dissent and abusive language. After being sent off, the referees called the match because there was no licensed administrator to serve as a coach for the team. After the match was called, the center referee claims that she was chased and surrounded by the coach and several parents. The assistant referee testified that he began to call “911” because he was afraid. The coach, however, claims that he did nothing more than approach the center referee to retrieve his cards. After the match, a complaint was filed by the referees against the coach for referee abuse and touchline misconduct. A hearing on the complaint was held and the state association found that the coach violated the state association rule on referee abuse; USSF Rule 531-9 (Referee Abuse); the state association rule on touchline misconduct; and the state association rule on accountability and conduct. The state association suspended him from all USSF affiliated activities for a period of six months; placed him on probation for one year following his suspension; fined him $200; and required him to complete a USSF Grade 8 referee course by August 3, 2005.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously DENIED the appeal. On the contention that the hearing panel failed to follow proper procedure, the appeals panel found that: 1) that the failure of the state association to admit the videotape of the match into the record was not grounds to overturn the decision; 2) the referees were appropriately allowed to remain in the hearing room during testimony because they were complainants in the case and the coach was not prejudiced by the referees’ presence; and 3) there was no credible evidence to support the coach’s contention that his witnesses were prevented from testifying fully. On the dispute that the hearing panel’s conclusions were erroneous, the appeals panel would not substitute its interpretation on factual issues for that of the hearing panel because there was sufficient evidence to support the hearing panel’s findings.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-37
Facts: The appellant was coaching his team in a U-8 game and was concerned with the roughness of play and the referee’s failure to make foul call during the game. After the game, the appellant approached the opposing coach to discuss the rough play and an argument between the coaches occurred. The argument involved threats and swearing between the coaches. The appellant sent an email to the U-8 Commissioner and President, complaining about the rough play, the referee and the opposing coach’s behavior. The Commissioner never specifically responded to that letter. Instead, the soccer association Executive Committee sent the appellant a letter, which stated that the Executive Committee had determined that the appellant had violated the Zero Tolerance Policy. The Executive Committee barred the appellant from any coaching position, refereeing and any Board member position. The letter also gave the appellant a right to appeal the decision to the Executive Committee within 30 days. After some scheduling difficulties, the appellant had a hearing before the Executive Committee. Neither side was allowed to question witnesses or the Board. The appellant’s attorney presented a summary argument at the hearing and neither side presented any additional evidence. In its decision letter, the Executive Committee found that the appellant had made a public display of aggression; used abusive language in the presence of children; inappropriately interacted with the referee during the game; inappropriately approached another coach; and set a bad example for younger players. The appellant’s ban was reduced to four years and his return was conditioned on the completion of a certified anger management class. The appellant then filed an appeal of the soccer association decision to the state association Youth Board. The state association Youth Board upheld the decision of soccer association. The appellant appealed the Youth Board decision to the state association Board of Directors. The Board of Directors upheld the decision of the Youth Board in a written decision.
Decision: The appeals panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal. The appeals panel concluded that the soccer association never sent the appellant notice or held a hearing before banning him as required by USSF Bylaw 701. The Executive Committee meeting, where the decision to ban him was made, does not qualify as a “hearing.” Although the appellant was given the opportunity to present his case in an appeal, this was not prior to the decision to discipline him.
USSF Appeal No. 2004-38
Facts: The appellant was coaching his team in a U-16 game. During the game, one of his players received a red card and got into an argument with the center referee for giving him a red card. The player had to be restrained and removed from the field by the appellant and an assistant coach. After the game, the appellant engaged in a discussion regarding the red card given to his player. According to the referee, the appellant approached him and yelled at him while inquiring about the red card. The referee also alleged that when he tried to end the conversation, the appellant grabbed his arm and then grabbed his upper arms and would not let him go until he threatened to contact the authorities. The appellant disputed the referee’s description of the events. He claimed that the referee approached him to discuss the red card and that the referee was acting erratically. He also claimed that the referee grabbed his arm and that he removed the referee’s hand with his own. After the incident, a state association official notified the appellant that he had been suspended for one-year pending a hearing by the state association PAD Committee for referee assault. The letter also stated that the state association would notify the parties of the date, time and place of the hearing as soon as the hearing could be arranged. The state association notified the parties of the date of the hearing and procedures for the hearing. The appellant wrote a letter to the state association asking, “Do you plan on recording the hearing some way?” According to the appellant, the state association told him that tape recordings were not permitted. The appellant had a hearing and the referee did not appear at the hearing but his written referee’s report was deemed read into the record. The state association found that the appellant had committed an inappropriate minor touching of a referee pursuant to Section 5 of USSF Policy 531-9.
Decision: The panel unanimously GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association for a new hearing. Although the record was not crystal clear, it appears that the appellant was prevented from recording the proceedings as allowed by USSF Bylaw 701. Furthermore, the state association violated USSF Bylaw 701 because it did not give the appellant an opportunity to confront the referee that accused him of assault at the hearing.