Media Resources

Serious Incident Protocol for In-Match Discriminatory Behavior

Process for Match Officials

  • Once informed of the allegation, the referee will inform the fourth official, assistant referees, VAR/AVAR, and match director (through the fourth official).
  • The referee will check with the other match officials to determine if there is a witness and will communicate with VAR to determine if there is any video evidence of the allegation.
  • The referee will allow the alleged offender the opportunity to explain the allegation. A teammate may join the player. A second match official may join the referee.
  • A second match official may join the referee. If the alleged offender admits to the behavior, the referee will issue the appropriate disciplinary sanction.
  • The referee will speak with both captains simultaneously to explain any delay.
  • The referee will speak with both head coaches, match director and field manager to share information that has been presented.
  • Only after all these steps are completed may the game resume.
  • If one (or both) head coach(es) indicates that their team is unwilling to continue, the referee will stop the clock and suspend the match for a period up to 30 minutes.
  • After the 30-minute grace period, a meeting with both teams and MLS stakeholders will take place to determine if the game can be continued. If not, the game will be abandoned.

FIFA Diversity and Anti-Discrimination Program for Fans

To help eliminate discrimination from MLS matches, the FIFA three-step protocol has been adopted for implementation for all MLS Matches. The process outlines the progressive steps to address in-stadium displays of discrimination from attending fans.

Step 1 – Stop the Match

In the event proactive and reactive announcements prove to be ineffective in stopping an incident, or a discriminatory act of a sufficient magnitude and intensity/visibility occurs without any prior incident, the match should be stopped.

Step 2 – Suspend the Match

If the discriminatory behavior does not cease once the match has restarted, the match shall be suspended for a reasonable time (for 5 to 10 minutes). The referee shall inform the teams to return to the dressing rooms and a public announcement shall be made informing them of the duration of the suspension.

Step 3 – Abandon the Match

If suspending the match proves ineffective in controlling the undesired behavior because (1) the discriminatory behavior does not cease once the match has restarted, or (2) The match was not able to be restarted, the match may be abandoned. The abandoning of the match shall only be taken as a very last resort and after all other possible measures have been implemented.

MLS reserves the right to repeat either Step One or Step Two based on the totality of the circumstances and overall public safety of the event. Factors including, but not limited to, the time of occurrence during the match, number of ejections, related fan misconduct (fan violence, thrown Items, etc.) should be taken into consideration.