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New Hampshire passes bill to crack down on fans, players who abuse sports officials

Referee shortage forces Mass. high school football games to be played on Thursdays
Referee shortage forces Mass. high school football games to be played on Thursdays 02:06

CONCORD, N.H. - The New Hampshire Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would introduce new punishments for people who harass or assault sports officials at games. 

Fans, players or coaches who are convicted of certain offenses against officials could be banned from participating in amateur or professional sports events for a period of time. Repeat offenses may lead to a lifetime ban, the legislation says.

The bill defines a "sports official" as anyone enforcing the rules at a sporting event, regardless of whether or not they are paid or a volunteer.

"People can become overly agitated"

Bill sponsor Sen. Lou D'Allesandro said the new rules will protect officials, players and the games themselves. 

The Manchester Democrat said in a statement that "people can become overly agitated and frustrated while participating or watching these sports, and often those reactions can be directed at our sports officials."

The bill says a ban for a first offense for someone convicted of abusing a sports official cannot be more than a year. Those who violate the ban could be held in criminal contempt and face a fine of $1,000 per violation. 

Laws against sports official abuse in other states

New Hampshire wouldn't be the first state to have legislation that specifically protects umpires and referees. Other states that have enacted laws on the issue include California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Massachusetts has also seen problems with abuse toward sports officials. A high school referee shortage last fall created a logistical nightmare for athletic directors and forced some communities to hold varsity football games on Thursday nights. 

Richard Pearson, the associate director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, told WBZ-TV that the shortage was mainly due to parents and fans behaving badly. 

"We have some court cases with some of the abuse things from fans, parents, and different things like that," he said. "It is tough to get people to come out here to officiate the game because of that."

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