Football Australia has laid out zero tolerance approach to referee attacks

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Football Australia boss James Johnson has forecast heavy sanctions for A-League players, coaches and officials and put them all on notice after a spate of incidents involving referee abuse he says “contradicts the spirit of football”.

Johnson said there needed to be a “zero tolerance” approach in light of attacks from senior people in the game including Western Sydney Wanderers coach Marko Rudan as well as his club chairman Paul Lederer.

Last weekend Lederer, the former chairman of the Australian Professional Leagues, unleashed a verbal tirade at the officials, including experienced referee Shaun Evans, as they left the field after his team’s narrow loss to Newcastle.

The incident is being investigated by FA and on Tuesday morning Johnson rammed home the message that such behaviour could not and would not be tolerated.

“Every individual, from grassroots volunteers to professional players and match officials, deserves to participate in football in a safe and respectful environment,” Johnson said.

“The behaviour under scrutiny goes against the values of the sport. Abuse or misconduct towards any of our staff or officials is unacceptable and contradicts the spirit of football. We have a zero-tolerance policy and are dedicated to creating a positive experience for all.”

Rudan is also facing sanction for declaring the Wanderers were treated differently to other clubs by referees.

APL chairman Stephen Conroy said the matter was still under investigation.

“APL is unable to comment on Football Australia run disciplinary processes stemming from recent events, however, clearly we don’t condone poor behaviour towards League match officials who should be able to work in a safe and respectful environment,” he said.

Johnson said such accusations impacted the referee drain at all levels, including pathways towards the A League and responsibility began with those at the top.

“Annually, we lose 40% of our registered match officials, which translates to around 4,200 individuals leaving their roles at all levels of the game,” he said.

“Despite the growing participation in football and the success of our national teams, our base of 11,000 officials has not expanded since 2011.”

One of the most significant factors contributing to this loss is the negative experiences officials face from coaches, fans, and players alike.

“This environment is unsustainable and contradicts everything we stand for. Our National Code of Conduct and Ethics, which applies across all levels of the game, is designed to combat such challenges, ensuring that football in Australia is enjoyable and safe for everyone involved,” Johnson added.

“We must all work together – across all levels of the game – to improve the culture surrounding football. This includes fostering respect and understanding for the vital role match officials play in our sport.”