The use of lasers is a new development in soccer matches and there is not a stadium where their use has not been seen. Unfortunately, laser pointers are well known among fans and the trend is spreading rapidly worldwide as television shows close ups of laser lights on players’ faces. Fans indiscriminately target whole teams and referees are unfamiliar with how to respond, according to an international instructor.
By Jose Borda, Revista Arbitros
Laser beam, annoying interference
It is difficult to identify those who use these devices because they are hidden in the crowd. The individuals who specialize in using laser pointers only do so because of this anonymity and because they get a charge even as they feel the tempting urge to use them They start to target players on the body and even the eyes of goalkeepers as well as referees and assistants when a decision goes against their team. What I do know is that this is a dangerous practice because aiming at the eyes can result in retinal burns or blindness which constitutes a very serious problem.
Revistaarbitros.com checked on this issue with the chairman of the CONMEBOL Referees Committee as to what specific action should be taken when this happens at matches. Dr. Carlos Alarcon said “The referee must stop the game when evidence of laser use is observed and security must be asked to prevent its reoccurrence. If the problem persists the referee can suspend the match, since the referee is responsible for protecting the health and safety of the players. The use of this type of device to distract is wrong from every viewpoint.” The same procedure would apply, for example, in situations with distracting colored lights.
The first case
The first case in which corrective action was taken was in a match between Malaysia and Indonesia. In the 53rd minute, the referee decided to suspend the game temporarily (at that time there was no established procedure) due to fans continuous use of green laser pointers to annoy and distract the players. After the teams left the field for their dressing rooms, public address announcements were made asking fans to stop using the laser pointers so the match could continue. Finally some action had been taken.
The responsibility lies not only with the referees or the police since competition rules can impose sanctions against the home team which is responsible for providing stadium security. This must be done to ensure that this activity does not increase in more games where most of the time the players are the intended targets. If these guidelines are followed and enforced, fans will know what to expect and journalists will see referees as prepared to deal with the problem and its consequences. This understanding will hopefully contribute to the disappearance of those annoying green lights.