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House approves bill to increase fines, jail time for attacking referees

Starting in August, attacking a referee could land you in jail.

Former professional soccer referee Glenn Prechac helped write a state bill that would increase penalties for anyone who attacks a sports official.

Currently, the fines for attacking a sports official range up to $500 with a minimum of two days in jail.

The proposed law would raise the fine to be a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $5,000. It would also include imprisonment for not less than five days and up to six months if the offense results in an injury that requires medical attention, along with 40 hours of community service and anger management counseling.

In a competition, youth cheerleader Camille Landeche glows at the sight of her parents cheering her on.

"It makes me feel happy," said Camille, "because I know they're there to support me."

Her father, Rusty Landeche, said he promotes the love of the game at his daughter's cheer meets and his son's baseball games.

"We tell our kids before they play every time, 'go have fun,'" said Landeche.

However, like many dedicated parent-fans, he has seen people harass sports officials.

"It happens more often than you think. You see a lot of parents hollering, screaming at their kids and that's not what it's about," said Landeche.

"Unfortunately there are times in the field where we hear threats from the sidelines, threats against the officials and sometimes threats against the players," said Glenn Prechac, a current youth soccer referee and former professional soccer referee.

Prechac officiated for the U.S. Soccer Federation for 30 years. He said he has seen how angry words can turn into physical attacks everywhere from professional games down to the youth level.

"In the last five or ten years, we've seen a huge uptick in violence, not only in soccer but across the state in football, baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse or any sport," said Prechac. "I had an assailant jump the fence and proceed to beat on one of my assistant referees on the sidelines."

He said the rage doesn't just affect the referees, but it affects the quality of the game as youth referees are quick to find other jobs when they're verbally abused or intimidated.

"What we're losing at a rather accelerating rate and at a detrimental rate to sports is that we're losing the youth officials that are involved in all of our sports," said Prechac.

So Prechac helped write the state bill that would increase penalties for anyone who attacks a sports official.

A key ingredient of the bill is the requirement of anger management counseling.

"We're going to miss a call, we're going to miss a 3-pointer with the toe on the line, we're going to miss a push in the end zone for the touchdown, we're going to miss a foul in soccer. So, we ask that everyone out there be compassionate because we do make mistakes," said Prechac.

Prechac hopes the penalties will act more as a deterrent and refocus people back to the love of the game.

The bill to increase penalties cleared the house and heads next to the senate for approval.

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