ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico high school sports governing board says unruly fans creating problems in football, cheerleading and basketball now are threatening the future of soccer.
The New Mexico Activities Association recently announced that soccer games are being canceled and the sport is losing officials over parental behavior, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
Association Executive Director Sally Marquez described the situation as a "crisis" in a letter to state coaches and athletic directors.
"In the past two weeks, I have received countless emails about fan behavior in soccer," the letter says. "Along with a couple of emails from officials who have resigned. We are at a crisis."
She said the cussing, screaming, and threatening comments from soccer parents have to stop.
In central New Mexico, around the Albuquerque area, the letter said seven varsity and 10 junior varsity matches have been canceled or rescheduled due to a lack of officials in recent weeks. And more have been altered in the state's other four regions, she said.
Robert Sanchez, president of the Central New Mexico Soccer Officials Association, backed up Marquez's assertion that parents are tainting the sport.
"It's become pervasive," Sanchez said. "It's parents. Ninety percent of this is parents. What is happening is, parents are trying to compensate, in my opinion, for what they think is a disservice to their children."
Sanchez said he has observed players yelling back at their parents to keep quiet during games. "Multiple times," he said.
What is most disconcerting, Sanchez said, is that the attacks from fans, who are often very close in proximity to the officials, are straying into the personal, rather than the professional.
"It's not fun. My sense is, it's been a slow increase over 10 years, but it's been a definite uptick over the last five," Sanchez said. "I honestly think these parents don't think they're doing anything wrong."
The New Mexico Activities Association is trying to enlist the help of the schools and the teams themselves to do some policing before it has to step in and perhaps bring a more substantial penalty.
"It's an overall, statewide issue," Marquez said in an interview with the newspaper. "Fans are driving stronger, better officials out of the game.
Soccer isn't the only sport causing sportsmanship headaches for the governing board.
The governing board said in April it was considering canceling next year's cheerleading State Spirit Competition following death threats and inflammatory social media posts.
Earlier this year, the association warned Estancia High School over rowdy basketball fans. Carlsbad High School imposed crowd restrictions after improper behavior from student fans.