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Suit Attacks 10-Year Expulsion From Soccer : Penalty for Incident With Referee Threatens His Livelihood, Coach-Commentator Claims

March 19, 1987|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

Brian Halliday has lived soccer from his days as a professional player and coach in Europe to managing teams in the United States to work as a commentator and announcer for international matches.

But what might have been Halliday's most important match came as a volunteer coach at a youth soccer league game of 13-year-olds last year in Orange.

As the game ended, Halliday walked toward one of the referees and accused him of incompetence. There was physical contact. Halliday claims he refused to relinquish his handshake until he had his say; the referee claims he was throttled.

Unable to Earn Living

The California Youth Soccer Assn., after a hearing last fall on the referee's charge that he was assaulted, ordered Halliday to stay out of soccer for 10 years.

Halliday's punishment means that, unlike the estimated hundreds of other youth soccer coaches and parents who make similar mistakes every year, he will not be able to earn a living for a decade, he claimed.

The association's disciplinary actions are recognized by its parent, the U.S. Soccer Federation and in turn by an international organization.

The ban on involvement "at any level, anywhere in the world" threatens not only his passion for amateur coaching but his livelihood as well, he claims in an Orange County Superior Court lawsuit.

"He has been prevented from practicing his profession," said Halliday's lawyer, Thomas L. Brown. "In the normal youth soccer case, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference."

Although he has won a rehearing of his case, Halliday has filed the suit in Superior Court to try to challenge the hearing procedures and rules of the soccer organizations.

"Ten years for something like this? It's like taking (Los Angeles Rams Coach) John Robinson and giving him a 10-year suspension for getting in a yelling match with a referee," Brown said.

Richard A. Casey, the referee involved in the case, who said he coaches 100 amateur games a year, did not agree.

"I know what happened," said Casey, who is prepared to testify against Halliday in a separate pending misdemeanor prosecution for battery.

"Assaults on referees--there's no place for them in amateur sport, professional sport, or any sport, at any level, especially youth," Casey said in an interview Wednesday.

Halliday, who last year served as coach of the Villa Park High School championship boys' soccer team, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer won an appeal of the suspension before the U.S. Soccer Federation, which ordered the California Youth Soccer Assn. to hold a new hearing, which is pending.

Last Friday, Halliday's attorney persuaded an Orange County Superior Court judge to issue a temporary restraining order against officials of the California Youth Soccer Assn. to block the suspension hearing until a Superior Court judge holds a hearing March 30 on Halliday's challenge of the rules.

Attorneys Excluded

Brown claimed that the soccer organization's hearing rules, which exclude attorneys and limit to three the number of witnesses who can be called on Halliday's behalf, are unfair.

The suspension rehearing was ordered because Casey was not present the first time around, according to George F. Donnelly, chairman of the national appeals board for the federation.

Donnelly, a retired New York lawyer, said in an interview Wednesday that his board, with its authority over amateurs and professionals alike, hears 25 appeals a year of suspensions for violence during soccer games.

"Most of them are at the youth level, unfortunately," Donnelly said. "There's been only one assault in pro soccer in the last 10 years, that I can remember. The pros are too smart. They know what can happen to them."

The typical punishment is a suspension of one or two years, Donnelly said.

Donnelly said the federation is not trying to "hurt" Halliday's ability to earn a living. "But you're not supposed to beat up referees. What can I tell you?"

California Youth Soccer Assn. officials could not be reached for comment.

According to court files, Halliday acknowledged that he had accused Casey of "cheating" the players because he was incompetent. Halliday also told investigating police that he was embarrassed, felt he was in the wrong and should never have lost his temper.

Casey said Halliday acted "with anger."

'Would Not Let Go'

"He came up to me, put out his right hand, as if to shake hands. He grabbed ahold of my hand and would not let go, although I asked him to."

"The other hand, he put it around my neck and started to choke, started to strangle," Casey said.

Brown, who also is a coach, said the penalty is "unbelievable" for a man who "has forgotten more soccer than I'll ever know." Halliday merely placed his left hand on Casey's shoulder and refused to let go with his right until he had finished his lecture, Brown said.

"He coaches good, well-disciplined teams," Brown said of Halliday. "He has a tendency to get a little hot under the collar, but he's a European-style soccer coach. What we get thrown out of the game for here, wouldn't even cause a nod over there."

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