Ontario Soccer Pilots Body Cams for Referees to Deter Abuse

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Some referees in Ontario, Canada, are being equipped with body cams to deter verbal abuse from fans and parents. 

As part of a pilot program, Ontario Soccer is providing 50 of the body cameras, which are available to roughly 6,000 referees in the province. 

CEO Johnny Misley told the CBC the program is the first of its kind in North America. 

"We feel there's an opportunity here, that we can show some leadership and try to curb the culture of referee abuse, which is the number one reason why referees leave the game and sport in general," Misley said. "This is not acceptable. And honestly, seeing these referees with cameras on them today is a pretty sad state of where our society is."

The pilot project is being conducted in partnership with Brock University, which will handle the research component of the evidence-based trial. The main objective of the project is to establish whether the cameras act as a deterrent to verbal and physical abuse. 

Misley notes that last year, a 16-year-old female referee was surrounded by parents in a parking lot after a match and was physically assaulted. In another match, a player who received a red card in a men's game chased a referee around the field with a machete. 

"It makes us feel a lot safer," said 21-year-old Angelina Baldino, who's in her fifth year of refereeing and recently used one of the cameras in a trial match. "[There] have been some instances in my past refereeing career where I felt like I've needed one."

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