Encouraging players to ‘kill' the other team is just one example of the sideline abuse at a kids' rugby match over the weekend.
The atmosphere at an intermediate-age game between Greerton and Rangataua was soured on Saturday when two adult supporters began yelling abuse.
A woman contacted SunLive the following day, disgusted at the behaviour she witnessed.
“They were swearing and saying ‘run into the ref and smash him, he's a redneck', even though their side was winning,” she says.
“These men were also telling their players to ‘kill' the other team.”
When other parents and supporters tried to intervene, reminding the men that it was ‘just a game', they were told to ‘f*** off'.
Bay of Plenty Rugby referee manager Pat Rae says they have received a complaint about the behaviour of some supporters from the game.
“That has been forwarded to our complaints review officer, who has deemed it necessary for a disciplinary hearing.”
However, he says there has been a marked decrease in referee abuse in the past year, with complaints down by 50 per cent.
“Bad behaviour has been a problem in the past, but some of the strategies we implemented last year have really reduced referee abuse and improved sideline behaviour.”
These include keeping spectators five metres further back from the field, and ‘technical zones' – areas on each 10m line where coaches, managers, physios, and reserves are confined for the game.
“That stops coaches from roaming up and down the sideline to shout instructions at their players, which sometimes turned into abuse at the referee when calls didn't go their way.”
In May, there were four referee abuse complaints, and in June there were seven.
“But we're still way down on last year.”
For Pat, one of the biggest problems with sideline abuse is the effect it has on the volunteer refs.
“One of my roles is recruiting new referees, which is made easier by tidying up sideline behaviour. I've managed to recruit between 35 and 40 new refs a year, but we can't hang onto them. They get sick of being abused.
“So if we can eliminate this abuse, it will make it easier to retain refs.”
For more information on correct participant behaviour, or to report poor behaviour, visit www.boprugby.co.nz/community-rugby/positive-rugby-environment