BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana House passed a bill Monday that cracks down on unruly parents and spectators at sports games who assault referees.
The proposed law stems from one Jefferson Parish referee's concerns about a spike in violence on gamedays.
"It's happening at an epidemic proportion and it's not only in one sport. It's happening in all sports -- whether its football, baseball, basketball or soccer," said soccer referee Glenn Prechac.
The life of a referee isn't an easy one. Video from September 2011 highlights a brawl in Sarasota, Fla., after spectators there got heated up about an unpopular call.
Then last year, a 46-year-old Utah soccer referee wound up dead after a 17-year-old player punched him in the head.
"I had an incident here at Pan American Stadium, June of last year, where one of my assistant referees was unfortunately jumped and beaten by a fan who jumped over the fence," said Prechac.
He's been a soccer referee for 30 years now and says referee-targeted violence is picking up steam across the metro area, which is why he authored a bill to curb such incidents.
On Monday, House Bill 227 introduced by state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, passed the full House.
It could soon mean heftier fines of up to $5,000; a maximum of six months behind bars if someone injures a referee; 40 hours of community service; and anger management counseling.
"Just by increasing the fines, increasing the prison sentence if the individual is injured. I think it sends a stronger message to parents that they really need to stay in control," said Henry said.
"I've witnessed fights in the stands, people attacking the referee," said Julie Ibieta.
The volleyball coach has seen her fair share of referee-spectator showdowns. She applauds cracking down on bad sportsmanship especially when it turns violent.
"I think a punishment for a parent that crosses the line is a good thing. No umpire or anyone should have to go to work and be assaulted," said Ibieta.
HB 227 passed on a 93-1 vote. It now heads to the Louisiana Senate for consideration.