A hearing is scheduled for representatives from Martha's Vineyard and Norwell high schools and Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association officials Tuesday, one week removed from an incident that marred the end of a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3 first-round boys' game last week.
The hearing will determine what consequences, if any, will result from two Martha's Vineyard players shoving a referee who called a handball in the box, resulting in the penalty kick that broke a scoreless tie within the game's final minute, allowing top-seeded Norwell to win the game and advance in the tournament.
As described by the Boston Herald, once the final whistle blew, two Martha’s Vineyard players charged the official who made the initial call. The first player came with a one-handed shove in the back, forcing the official forward. The second player then delivered a chest bump, before the first player came back with a second push to the back. The sequence of events was confirmed by both school’s athletic directors, MIAA soccer assigner Matt DiNapoli, and in a video obtained by the Herald.
Once the confrontation between the two players and the official began, players and administrators from both sides rushed to defuse the situation.
“We are constantly reinforcing to our fans, athletes, and coaches how important it is to be respectful towards game officials,” said Martha’s Vineyard athletic director Mark McCarthy, who was on the opposite side of the field from where the altercation took place. “Unfortunately, there are times when events speed up before you have the chance to stop them. I am proud of how some of our players acted to stop the situation.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen an incident like this with an official and it’s unfortunate,” Norwell athletic director Sean McInnis said. “It does not reflect the behavior exhibited by most of the Martha’s Vineyard team. Both goalies as well as many of the players from the two teams were seen coming together and congratulating each other on such a well hard-fought game.”
Both players were issued red cards for physical conduct toward an official, but the consequences are limited, given the fact that Martha Vineyard's season is now over. The steepest possible penalty to result from Tuesday's hearing could be a one-year ban from all interscholastic athletics for the players who initiated the contact.
According to the MIAA Handbook rule 49.6, cited by the Herald, “A student or coach who physically assaults an official shall be expelled from the activity immediately and banned from further participation or coaching in all sports for one year from the date of the offense.”
DiNapoli, who is in charge of assigning officials for the Patriot League, South Shore League and Southeast Conference, said his greatest concern is that officials, who are already becoming harder to recruit in the face of derogatory comments from fans, will be further dissuaded from working after incidents like these.
“This gentleman is one of the best officials we have,” DiNapoli said. “He is a USSF [United States Soccer Federation] official, a college official and a high school official. We already have a tough time whether it’s the EEE this fall or the screaming that comes from fans getting officials to cover games. But now when you have players pushing referees, it’s very concerning.”