The first rule of football is you’re not supposed to use your hands – especially if it’s to assault a referee.

With a reported five incidents of “physical attacks and discrimination” aimed at Cayman Islands football referees this year, behavior being exhibited on and off the pitch has gone far beyond simple “unsporting behavior” into potential criminal activity.

Although it would still be intolerable, it would be somewhat more understandable if the violence and aggression were being committed by adolescents fueled by adrenaline and testosterone, and uninhibited by a fully matured prefrontal cortex. However, the referees’ allegations are not being lodged against misconduct by Cayman’s youth, but by Cayman’s adults: coaches and parents.

For shame.

It is difficult to imagine a worse role model than a so-called “grown up” who in front of children (and quite possibly while under the influence of alcohol) storms the field and throws a cowardly and vicious punch at a referee, who in addition to being a fellow human being, also at that moment (by virtue of his uniform and his position) happens to be a symbol of official authority and law and order.

Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said in response to the situation, “This is unacceptable behavior, and should be scorned upon by all players and clubs, and the responsible parties should be disciplined and sternly dealt with. Refs should be respected, and even when they make mistakes, they should be appreciated for the job they do. [The Cayman Islands Football Association] has a duty to protect them.”

Allow us to abridge Minister Bodden’s remarks for clarity: “This is unacceptable.”

We as a society need to take a step back and put our athletics scene in proper perspective. The football matches – at which referees have been knocked unconscious, threatened with a knife and assailed with verbal abuse – are not being played for money, fame or (outside the narrow confines of our shores) even serious bragging rights. These sporting events are for the purposes of recreation, public health and pure love of the game. The assaults on referees are not compatible with that mission.

The Cayman Islands Referees Association has requested police protection at events in order to ensure the safety of officials. For a police officer or two to be nearby (or at least on standby) wherever large crowds have gathered may be desirable; but for police resources to be dedicated specifically to “bodyguard duty” for volunteer referees is disgraceful.

One senior referee said the mistreatment of officials by parents during youth matches has gotten so extreme that they are considering “separating parents from the game.” (How will that prevent a coach from assaulting a referee, as was alleged to occur April 8?)

There may be a more elegant solution. Except to the participants, it would be no major loss if the referees refused to officiate adult recreational leagues. While it would be sorrowful for youth athletes to be deprived of proper refereeing during their competitive matches, the absence of referees would be preferable to the children’s development than for them to witness referees being abused and assaulted.

In other words, perhaps it’s time for Cayman’s volunteer referees to consider packing up their whistles, and voluntarily going home.


  1. I’m not quite sure what this editorial is trying to say but I will attempt to add context that might bring more information to this set of circumstances within the sport of football in Cayman.

    To make an obvious fact very clear….the game of football cannot be played without match officials so it would appear as if this editorial is calling for an abandonment of football in Cayman.

    Indiscipline and referee assaults in the football played in Cayman is nothing new; it has been the norm over all of the years I experienced watching football from back in the late 70s as a youngster…and playing the game through the 80s and early 90s.

    Cayman’s football reached its highest level during the late 80s and mid 90s when some excellent football was being played and the game looked like it might have a bright future.

    A key decision was made by the then-CIFA president Jeffrey Webb that there would be no moves to further professionalise the game in Cayman in around 1994, when I was a part of a group who were looking at the possibilities of forming relationships with professional clubs in England to invest in the excellent talent that was emerging in the game…and to take the game to at least a semi-professional level, locally.

    Some individuals in that group had been on the books of professional clubs in the UK and saw the potential within the game in Cayman, which was at a high level at that time.

    Webb’s decision was dictatorial and self-serving but he had the support of his clique of local players and supporters, who believed his promises that he and CIFA would provide the avenue for football’s advancement and that an expat-based injection of investment for professionalising the game in Cayman was a bad thing.

    Unless the game was taken forward to at least a semi-pro level…the violence, indiscipline and lack of knowledge that was part and parcel of what was…and still is….an essentially amateur, recreational game would continue and increase.

    And this is exactly what has happened.

    Violence and indiscipline is guaranteed in football the world over….and not unique to Cayman…unless the game has strict and disciplined leadership from the top.

    At the moment, the biggest problem facing Cayman’s football game is the leadership…what is happening on the football fields is only a reflection of that unpleasant reality.

  2. I think that this is another case of Government /Minister incompetence and ineffectiveness . How long has football has been played in Cayman Islands ? How long has fighting over the games been happening in the Islands ? How long has it been alowed that one can come into any game intoxicated ?

    Any SPORTS in the Cayman Islands , shouldn’t it be a big priority for the Islands and the Kids even if it is not played for money . To learn to play professionally, so that they can become professional players for money .

    The bottom line here if we can’t help govern ourselves , then Government must step in , I am sure that’s why there’s a Sports Minister in Gov , so it looks like no one is taking any action , but Government has the most responsibility here , and the kids are going to be the biggest loosers . This is just like if we didn’t drive intoxicated and caused accidents , there wouldn’t be any reason for Government to make laws on driving intoxicated .

  3. SPORTS and the Community.
    Here we have a major problem with SPORTS and no one is addressing it . The Cayman Compass Editorial has given us a platform to voice our opinion on the issue , but because we have to put our name on the opinion we post , no one is trying to better the situation for the benefits of the games and the kids . Sad pathetic.
    I have noticed in other News Media’s where people don’t have to sign their name they post all kinds of comments.
    I think that we should be more outspoken on these kinds of issues and the Government for allowing these issues to get out of control .

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