Synopses of 2005 Appeals Committee Decisions
Synopses of 2005 Appeals Committee DecisionsThe following are brief synopses of appeals cases considered by the Appeals Committee during 2005. 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[Note: Some appeals cases were assigned numbers and then dismissed or withdrawn before the Appeals Committee considered them – thus some appeals numbers are skipped below]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. 2005-1
Facts: The appellant, a referee, was originally suspended by the state association from all USSF activities for six months for a violation of USSF Policy 531-10 (Misconduct of Game Officials) and USSF Policy 531-11 (Code of Ethics). After an appeal to USSF was remanded back to the state association, the appellant agreed to serve out the term of his suspension. The appellant allegedly violated the terms of his suspension by registering in July 2004 to referee games in USSF sanctioned matches scheduled for September 6, 2004. The appellant denied that he ever registered to referee and did not actually referee the games. The State Association hearing went forward without the presence of the appellant on January 10, 2005. The hearing panel consisted of four members because the fifth member was ill and unable to attend. The hearing panel determined that appellant had violated the terms of his suspension by actively seeking and accepting assignment to officiate USSF sanctioned matches during the term of his suspension. The hearing panel determined that appellant should be suspended until August 31, 2005.
Decision: The appeals panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the State Association because of procedural errors and a lack of any evidence to support the charges. Specifically, the panel held that:
1) The hearing panel pursuant to USSF Bylaw 531-10 requires at least 5 panel member and the state only provided 4;
2) the substance of the notice letter was insufficient because it failed identify the potential consequences of the charges; and
3) There was no evidence that the appellant had actually registered himself to referee the games.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-2
Facts: The state association upheld the decision of one of its leagues that the appellant used work product (e-mail list), which was property of the league and solicited players in violation of his select coach’s contract. The appellant was suspended from all USSF affiliated activities for three months.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the State Association because the notice letter failed to give appropriate notice of the charges and possible consequences that appellant faced.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-3
Facts: The state association suspended a coach for violating recreational team rules. The suspension was reduced from one-year to the end of the spring 2005 recreation season.
Decision: The appeals panel GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association for a new hearing. The state association failed to hold 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. 2005-4
Facts: The hearing panel found that a referee violated the USSF Policy 531-10 by engaging in the unethical conduct of refereeing without submitting to the Risk Management Program for the state association. In a decision dated March 8, 2005, the hearing panel suspended the referee from all USSF activities from March 8, 2005 through December 31, 2005.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The referee was given the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses despite the fact that his attorney was not allowed to speak on his behalf. There was no evidence that the hearing panel engaged in ex parte and ex post facto communications in violation of Bylaw 701, Section 11. There was sufficient evidence to support State’s decision that referee committed unethical conduct in violation of USSF Policy 531-10. In the opinion of the appeals panel, the suspension from all USSF activities from March 8, 2005 through December 31, 2005 was appropriate.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-5
Facts: At a tournament game on March 19, 2005, one of the players went down with an injury. The head referee instructed the players to kick the ball out of play so that he could stop play. The players did not kick the ball out of play and the referee then blew his whistle to stop play. At that point, the referee had a brief discussion with one of the players. The coach of that player then told the referee “don’t talk to my players.” The referee then approached the coach and asked him to control his emotions or there would be consequences. The coach responded by saying “oooh, you scare me.” The referee then asked the field marshal to remove the coach from the field. After some hesitation, the coach left the field and went to the parking lot. The match continued until halftime with the spectators voicing dissent at the referees. At halftime, the referee instructed the assistant coach that had replaced the head coach to control his sidelines and remove his spectators or he would cancel the match. After five minutes elapsed and the spectators did not leave, the referee cancelled the match. The state association sent the head coach a notice informing him that there would be a hearing to consider charges of referee abuse and misconduct. The state association found the head coach guilty of misconduct and suspended him 6 months, placed him on probation for one year and fined him $250.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The appeals panel found that the coach received notice, a fair hearing and that the state association did not violate his due process rights. The appeals panel believed that the state association made a sufficient attempt to notify its members of the misconduct rule. The appeals panel also found that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the state association’s decision that the coach violated the misconduct rule. Lastly, the appeals panel held that the punishment was not “arbitrary” or “capricious.” However, the appeals panel did feel that a much shorter suspension may have been appropriate in this case.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2005-6, 2005-7
Facts: The appellants were a licensed administrator and a team manager for a boys’ U-14 team and another licensed administrator and coach for the same boys’ U-14 team that took part in a match in the State Cup. Before the match, the team warmed up but appeared to have only ten players. One of the players had received a red card the game before and was required to sit out the match. The player’s twin brother was injured and could not participate in the match. Despite having a red card, it appears that the player participated in the match by wearing his twin brother’s jersey. After the match, the President of the Club contacted the state association regarding the player’s participation despite the red card. The state association ruled that the team manager and the coach had violated its rules regarding use of an ineligible player, and falsification of documents. The state association suspended the team manager from all USSF activities through May 2, 2007 and all state association activities until May 2, 2012. The state association suspended the coach from all USSF activities through May 2, 2010 and all state association activities for life.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The panel found no evidence to support the appellants’ assertion that they were denied a fair and impartial hearing. The panel felt that the state association should have allowed the team manager to present his written evidence because the notice letter failed to notify him that the statements needed to be notarized. However, the panel did not feel that this mistake warranted reversal of the decision. The panel believed that the state association made reasonable efforts to notify the coach of the hearing and the punishment while severe was warranted.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2005-8
Facts: A player on a U-14 boy’s soccer team received a yellow card for a serious foul on an opposing player. In his report, the referee stated that the player intentionally pushed him as the player passed him after receiving the yellow card. The referee then issued the player a red card for referee assault. The player left the field of play. The player disputed the referee’s description of the event. He claimed that the contact with the referee was accidental and not intentional. The referee did not appear at the hearing but his written referee’s report was deemed part of the record. The hearing chairman attempted to contact the referee by phone but the referee was unavailable. The player was given an opportunity to present his case. The state association found that the player had committed an inappropriate minor touching of a referee pursuant to Section 5 of USSF Policy 531-9, as well as violations of state association rules. The player was suspended for three months.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the state association. The appeals panel held that by not having the referee available by telephone, the state association violated USSF Bylaw 701 because it did not give the player an opportunity to confront the referee that accused him of assault at the hearing. The panel may have normally remanded the case back to the state association to hold a hearing with the referee present. However, as the player had been officially “suspended” during the pendency of the appeal – a time period that lasted almost his entire suspension of three months – the panel concluded that the most appropriate resolution of the appeal was to grant it.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-9
Facts: A player on a U-16 boys’ soccer team committed a foul on an opposing player. As he passed the referee, he allegedly said something to the referee. The referee asked the player what he said and the player allegedly responded, “I said, he grabbed my f***ing shirt.” The referee then gave the player a red card for foul and abusive language. The player then pushed the referee and told the referee that it was “Bull s***”. He also gave the referee the middle finger while leaving the field of play. Both of the Assistant Referees support the referee’s description of the events involving the player. The player claimed that the contact with the referee was not intentional due to a medical condition.
The referee did not submit the match reports to the state association office until a month after the match. The player had a hearing before the state association. The referee testified at the hearing to substantially the same set of facts in the referee report. The state association found the player guilty of referee assault pursuant to Section 5 of USSF Policy 531-9. The player was suspended from all USSF activities until after two matches are played in the spring season of 2006.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The fact that the referee report was submitted late was insufficient to warrant reversal of the state association decision. There was no evidence that time missing from a tape recording of the hearing was intentional. In this case, the appeals panel found that there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the player’s actions were intentional and did not involve his medical condition.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-10
Facts: A coach for a U-10 game had one player on the roster from a different state. It is unclear from the record whether the player participated in a game. The coach was accused of using an illegal, unrostered, out-of-state player in violation of the state association rules rules. The three coaches and the player’s father attended the hearing. At the hearing, the coach explained that the player had received a player’s pass from the state association, and state association had granted the player permission to play. The coach also explained that the Team Manager was responsible for registration of the players. The coach stated that he believed that the player was eligible because he had a valid player pass and had played in New Jersey the two previous years. Based on the record, it did not appear that anyone testified at the hearing to accuse the coach of violating the state association rules. The state association suspended the coach from all USSF activities for 3 years for rostering an illegal, unrostered, out-of-state player on the boys U-10 team.
Decision: The appeals panel GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association for a new hearing. The appeals panel found that when compared with the relatively minimal punishment of probation given to the other coaches involved, a suspension of three years was arbitrary and capricious. The panel was especially disturbed by the fact that state association gave absolutely no explanation as to why this coach should receive a three year suspension while the other coaches were only given probation.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-12
Facts: A player on the U-12 boys’ soccer team was released by a coach (not the coach/trainer). Under the state association’s rules, a player can only be released from a traveling team if: (1) the player has violated rules; (2) the player moves to a place where it would be impractical for the player to continue playing with the team; (3) the player is injured for the seasonal year; (4) the player requests, in writing, a release. The state association sent a notice letter to the coach that released the player, the coach/trainer (the appellant) and the president of the club stating that there would be a hearing regarding the other coach’s removal of a player from the U12 Boys’ team. The state association found that the other coach violated the state association rules by removing the player from the team even though the player did not wish to be released. In the penalties section of the decision, the state association suspended the coach/trainer from all USSF activities for over one year.
Decision: The appeals panel GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association for a new hearing. In this case, two panel members believed that the state association failed to make any factual findings regarding the coach/trainer’s conduct and that there was no evidence presented that the coach/trainer had any involvement in the violation of the state association rules. One panel member did note that the coach/trainer was listed as a coach on the team roster and the charging letter listed the possible penalties "for all involved." Two members of the panel also believed that the notice was insufficient under USSF Bylaw 701 because it failed to put the coach/trainer on notice that he was accused of any wrongdoing.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-13
Facts: A coach for a girls’ U-17 team submitted paperwork for three players after the October 31, 2004 deadline for registration. The coach allowed the three players to participate in a match without cards. The state association found the coach guilty of violating state association’s rules and suspended him from December 19, 2004 through December 19, 2005.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The panel found that there was sufficient evidence to support the findings of the state association and that there was no evidence that the state association had any bias against him. In fact, the coach made no specific allegation that anyone tried to improperly influence the state association’s committees.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2005-14
Facts: A coach for a girls’ U-15 team was suspended from all USSF affiliated activities for referee abuse on July 16, 2004. The suspension was set to expire on August 31, 2005. At some point after July 16, 2004, the coach became the team manger for a Girls U-15 team. The state association sent the coach a letter notifying him of a hearing on the violation of his suspension. The coach did not appear at the hearing and the state association found him guilty of violating his suspension and suspended him from August 31, 2005 through August 31, 2010.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The appeals panel refused to revisit the grounds for the coach’s original suspension because the time for the appeal of that decision had long since passed. The panel also held that the coach’s misunderstanding of his suspension was insufficient grounds to reverse the decision of the state association.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-15
Facts: A trainer for a boys’ U-13 team was accused of illegal recruiting six players. The state association held a hearing regarding the charges of illegal recruiting and determined that the trainer had violated state association rules. The trainer was suspended for one year.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the state association. USSF Bylaw 701 requires that the state association give the trainer “notice of the specific charges or alleged violations in writing and possible consequences if the charges are found to be true.” The appeals panel found that the notice letter sent to the trainer did not provide notice of possible consequences, nor did the letter sufficiently describe the allegations. Furthermore, the hearing panel was concerned about the fact that the record that was lacking any clear support for the allegations against trainer.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-16
Facts: During a boy’s U-16 match, a player on the opposing team pushed a player on the appellant’s team to the ground. The referee and some of the witnesses claimed that the appellant then pushed the opposing player. The appellant contended that he simply was breaking up an altercation between the two players. The hearing panel determined that the appellant had assaulted the player and violated several state rules. Therefore, the appellant was suspended until June 1, 2006 and placed on probation from June 1, 2006 until May 31, 2007.
Decision: The appeals panel GRANTED the appeal and REMANDED the case to the state association for a new hearing. The panel found that the state association failed to explain how its rules supported the suspension of the appellant. It appeared that the state association rules were based on a point system that specifically sets out the length of a suspension on a per game basis. The state association failed to explain how it concluded that the appellant could by suspended until June 1, 2006 under its rules.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-17
Facts: A member for the board of trustees for a local soccer association was ordered to register a player and a team manager and submit documentary evidence that the board was complying with these orders no later than August 31, 2004. The orders specifically stated that if the board failed to “strictly comply in substance and in form,” then the individual the board members would be suspended for one year.
On October 5, 2004, several people filed grievances against the board including the appellant over elections held on September 29. Additional grievances were filed against the board including the appellant for the failure to recognize a club president on October 6, 2004. A hearing on the grievances proceeded without the appellant’s presence. On November 16, 2004, the hearing panel issued its decision suspending her from all soccer activities until August 31, 2009.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The appeals panel found that the appellant clearly had an opportunity to present her case or request a continuance to prepare her case. She took advantage of neither opportunity. The appeals panel was slightly concerned by the scope of the suspension which excludes board member from all activities in the state association and affiliates of US Soccer Federation. The appeals panel believes that the state association should clarify the scope of the suspension. For instance, the suspension might apply to coaching and administrative activities only. However, the suggestions of the appeals panel should not be construed as preventing the state association from suspending participants from any/all state association activities.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-19
Facts: A team administrator for a boys’ U-12 team had a confrontation with a player on the team. The player alleged that the team administrator grabbed him by the shoulders and neck and shook him. The player’s parents arrived at the match shortly after the incident and there was a confrontation between the parents and the team administrator. The team was: (1) suspended from any and all affiliated activities for nine months; (2) placed on probation for three years after his suspension; (3) required to complete an E level coaching clinic; and (4) required to pay a $250 fine.
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The appeals panel believes that there was sufficient evidence to support the decision of the state association. The fact that the hearing panel consisted of two people that were married does not mean that the trainer was denied due process. The panel does not believe that the trainer was prejudiced by the delay in sending out the written decision. Lastly, the panel was disturbed by the chairperson of the hearing being absent for the first ten minutes of argument. The panel would recommend that the chairperson be present for all proceedings.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-20
Facts: A player on an over 30 team was involved in an altercation with an opposing player. The head referee immediately issued a red card to the player on the opposing team. After discussions among the referees, the appellant also was issued a red card. The referees claim that the appellant approached the assistant referee with “vigor” after he received the red card. He was inadvertently spraying blood as he questioned the assistant referee about why he received a red card. The head referee told him repeatedly to leave the field of play but he did not do so. He then informed him that if he did not leave the field of play that the game would be abandoned. The appellant responded by saying “F*** you, I don’t care, I’ll get you.” The head referee then blew the whistle and abandoned the match. On November 18, 2005, the hearing panel issued its decision suspending the player from all USSF activities for just over six months. The decision found the player guilty of “verbal Referee Assault”
Decision: The appeals panel DENIED the appeal and UPHELD the decision of the state association. The appeals panel found that there was sufficient evidence to support the state association’s findings. There was sufficient evidence to show that the player physically threatened the head referee. However, the panel would not characterize the offense as “verbal Referee Assault”. Referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9 requires that there be an intentional act of physical violence at or upon the referee. In this case, there does not appear to be any evidence that the player intentionally spat blood upon a referee or had any physical contact with a referee. However, USSF Policy 531-9 includes referee abuse. Referee abuse is defined as a verbal statement or physical act not resulting in bodily contact which implies or threatens physical harm to a referee. It is clear that the player’s statement and behavior qualify as referee abuse under USSF Policy 531-9. Although the minimum suspension for referee abuse is less than referee assault, the panel believes that the suspension was warranted based on his behavior at the match. Lastly, the panel finds that there was nothing improper about the referees being kept in the room after the hearing. There was no evidence that any further testimony was given by the referees. Keeping the referees in the room after the hearing was a reasonable safety precaution.
USSF Appeal No. 2005-21
Facts: A match between two adult amateur teams was scheduled on September 28, 2005. About one month prior to the match, one of the team managers contacted a licensed USSF referee assignor to request the assignment of referees for the match. The USFF referee assignor appointed two referees for the match. The USSF referee assignor requested that the appellant find a third referee for the match, which he did. The day before the match, the president of the league in which the teams participate requested that another licensed USSF referee assignor affiliated with the state association and the league, assign referees for the match. This assignor appointed a different three-person crew to referee the match.
On September 28, 2005, both referee crews appeared at the match. Words were exchanged between the referee crews and neither crew wanted to leave the match. The referee crew assigned second was paid and left the match. The appellant’s crew officiated the match without incident. The state referee committee found the appellant guilty of violating USSF Policy 531-11, Part III, Subpart C, “Code of Ethics for Referees” and USSF Policy 531-8, Assignment of Game Officials, Section 7 and suspended him from December 1, 2005 through June 1, 2006.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal and REVERSED the decision of the state association. First, the appeals panel was unsure exactly what provision of the Referee Code of Ethics was violated. It was clear that the state referee committee found that the appellant accepted an assignment from an assignor not affiliated with the league or state association and that he refused to give up the assignment when he clearly knew this to be the case. There is nothing in the Referee Code of Ethics that obviously prohibits this behavior. Second, this panel does not believe that it is unusual for a referee assignor to request that a head referee find an assistant referee. The fact that the appellant found another referee does not mean that he “assigned” him to the match.