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The recent death of Utah soccer referee Ricardo Portillo, allegedly at the hands of an on-field attack by a teen-aged player, drew national attention to the issue of official and referee safety.

The consensus in DODDS-Europe circles is that it’s not a problem here.

“I think it’s a non-issue, from my experience,” said Garrett Field, soccer commissioner of the Kaiserslautern Officials Association, which covers DODDS-Europe events in the Benelux, Italy and Germany and will staff this month’s European championship soccer tournaments. “(Players) want to be competitive, so you get the frustration and everything like that, but not in a hostile way.”

DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore agreed that violence against officials is not currently a problem for the league, but stressed that vigilance is required to keep it that way.

“Fortunately we have not, to my knowledge, had things like that happen here in DODDS-Europe,” Seadore said. “It’s always a concern, something we all need to be aware of.”

Field said organization leaders distributed links to articles about Portillo’s death to the rank-and-file officials, but did not implement any changes to the KOA’s established on-field protocols.

“We didn’t really have to change anything,” Field said. “Just remain professional.”

Seadore also shared the news with DODDS-Europe coaches and administrators, along with a request to reemphasize sportsmanship among players, coaches, parents and fans.

“We certainly hope that we are educating our students on how to deal with the emotions of the game and anger towards other players and officials.” Seadore said.

Each year, DODDS-Europe publishes a sportsmanship announcement that is required to be read before each DODDS-Europe sporting event. The announcement details acceptable behavior for “student-athletes, coaches and spectators.” The announcement’s list of five “expectations” includes a directive to “respect decisions made by contest and school officials.”

Those explicit rules are set in the context of DODDS-Europe’s affiliation with the military, with its emphasis on self-discipline, respect for authority and consequences for inappropriate behavior. That culture contributes to a safe working environment for sports officials, Field said.

“I don’t think you can take away from the community. That is the way their kids are brought up,” Field said. “The environment and the community play a big role in it.”

Seadore vows that DODDS-Europe will continue to do all it can to prevent an incident like the recent tragedy in Utah.

“Just be aware of it,” Seadore said. “May this never, ever happen here in DODDS-Europe.”

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