Launceston basketball spectators have been put on notice after an anonymous letter by a referee called out what's been described as 'absolutely deplorable' behaviour.
A three-page letter, shared on Facebook, noted a marked increase in abuse towards referees, some of whom are still in school.
The letter has been supported by the Launceston Basketball Association.
"In the most recent incidents I have had to face, the behaviour shown was absolutely deplorable and given they were under-16 matches, this raises many more issues as to what behaviour is being condoned by the clubs and parents," the letter read.
"I ask you all if this were your son, daughter, brother, or sister refereeing, would you want them to be abused almost every time they step on the court to officiate?
"I feel I could safely say you would not wish this upon them. So, it raises the question, why is the constant abuse increasing more and more, rather than being cut out.
"Why do parents and coaches believe that abusing the referee will change the outcome of the game?"
The letter has been shared by numerous clubs and associates from around Tasmania. LBA general manager Mitch Duhig said the organisation stood by its referees.
"It's critical to our game - this behaviour must stop," he said.
"It has a really negative impact on all involved, from the players to the parents to the coaches but particularly the referees who are on the front line copping that abuse.
"It's not on."
In the most recent incidents I have had to face, the behaviour shown was absolutely deplorable...
The letter also cites that referee shortages have resulted in multiple games being officiated by a single ref, which included late games at 9.30pm.
The author of the letter hinted that should the inappropriate behaviour continue, the sport may lose the few referees it has.
"I fear that if this offensive behaviour continues, the future of the sport we all love may be jeopardised to a point of no return," the letter read.
"It will be an incredibly sad day if the behaviour and actions of the few, spoil it for the many."
Duhig said referees being stretched thin was another symptom of the court shortage already plaguing Launceston.
The LBA Facebook page said the letter's claims were supported by a more than 100 per cent increase in official behaviour reports in 2021.
"As you can see from the post, we've seen a decline in behaviour in the last 12 months ... it's unfortunately gotten to a point where that's what we need to do," Duhig said.
"We're committed to improving so everyone can enjoy basketball. We do have those late games for juniors at 9.30pm on weekdays - they [the teams] are cycled around but often referees aren't.
"We may have a junior referee doing games until 10 or 10.30pm."
Duhig said the current COVID climate might play a role in shorter fuses for sporting patrons.
"Personally, I think just the current climate of ongoing uncertainty ... people don't know if they're going into lockdown next week or if that's even going to happen," he said.
"When it comes to this kind of behaviour, I've spoken to others in other codes - it's across the board and it's gotten considerably worse over the last 12 months."
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