The FA has been running its Respect campaign for the past three years, and current data suggests that it appears to be making some progress in local leagues and junior football. The progress made has been borne out by the recently published statistics on the FA's Are you losing it Website
There has been a 9% increase in the number of qualified referees this season and there are 5197 trainee referees at Level Nine – a 45% increase on 2008/2009.
Dissent cautions are down in 12 out of 16 of the senior professional leagues and divisions. In the Premier League alone dissent cautions are down by 37% whilst in the Championship the numbers are down by 53%, with League One showing an 8% decrease and League Two dropping by 10%.
Respect has become a compulsory module in the FA’s training courses for all new referees and coaches (over 25,000) coming into the game each season.
Referee assaults down 25% on previous season.
There are about 25,000 affiliated referees in the country and although this is almost at an all-time low, this number has improved since the FA's respect campaign was launched, and in addition the number of referees being newly qualified has also gone up. Despite these promising figures thousands of referees are still quitting football on a regular basis and many children are being lost to football because of pushy and over enthusiastic parents.
The FA's respect campaign is targeting pushy parents.
In junior football, parents need to be accountable and own up to their poor behavior on the sidelines. Parents' win at all costs - my son is a star, attitude is strangling the youth game, not only giving it a bad name among other sports but also discouraging talented children from taking part. The biggest issue is that often the parents do not realize they are the ones doing it.
The problems encountered mostly are parents/coaches pushing their child too much, and having a win at all costs attitude and in doing so show no respect towards the officials administering the laws of the game. The issues we see all too frequently in junior football are twofold, players are often excluded because their skills and talents have not developed sufficiently, to be deemed to be able to make a winning impact on the team, and also parents pushing and expecting too much of their own children.
These problems offer a huge challenge and the FA respect campaign is focused on these issues head-on. Many clubs have applied to become FA Charter Standard clubs and in doing so have agreed to abide by a set of codes of conduct, which are targeted towards, coaches, parents and the players themselves. The codes of conduct require the all involved in football to show respect.
Codes of conduct provide a set of rules for all involved in football to follow, but are they being adhered to. Evidence shows us that even when clubs have a signed declaration, which the parent has read and understood, they are often ignoring the guidelines within them.
Below the FA has offered a few suggestions on how to embed the codes of conduct and the message from the respect campaign into the minds of all involved in football. They suggest these statements below should be repeated before every game:
Referee is in charge
Shout, but don’t criticize
Enjoy the game
Captain only speaks to the referee
Try whatever the score
The junior football coach is the key person, and the behavior of the coach on the sidelines sets the tone for the players and supporters. They have the ability to ensure, to a certain extent, the attitude of the parents watching. It's obvious that if the coaches are over enthusiastic and pushy from the sidelines, then the parents watching will consider it the norm and do likewise. If however the coach is calm, shows an appropriate level of encouragement and doesn't shout excessively, then the parents will follow this example.
Coaches have a duty to ensure parents understand the parameters they are under when watching and encouraging their team, and that they should abide by the clubs codes of conduct.
Football is a game which is played to win, and the satisfaction that winning brings is obvious, though it shouldn't be played to win at all costs, excluding those players who are not deemed skilful enough. The enjoyment of football is not only in the winning but also in the taking part.
The majority of junior football is played without a league appointed referee. This means that most of our games are refereed by a club official or a parent. Quite often the referee will have not attended any formal training, and has been pressurized by the coach to officiate the match. This puts undue strain on the referee, especially with both sets of supporters expecting the non-appointed official to be as good as a paid professional referee from the Premier League.
Both teams expect a referee to be able to make the correct decision every time, especially when they deem the decision to be in their team's favour, and they are equally annoyed when a decision is given against their team. Often abuse is directed towards the referee for giving an, "incorrect", decision in the eyes of the parent. The coach is usually the first person the aim abuse at the referee with the parents following suit, and taking their cue from the coach.
The referee's job is to record the details of the match, apply the laws of the game and keep a close view on the events taking place on the pitch as well as having an overall awareness of the game itself. Doing this is a skill and is learnt through training and practice, and therefore to ask a parent to referee any football match and then to expect them to get every decision right every time is folly. Though those very same parents who have little understanding of how difficult it is to effectively referee a football match, are the same ones who give abuse to both players and referees and can only be described as ignorant.
Once again this is where the football coach must lead, taking the attitude that whatever the decision, the referee is an integral part of the game, and must be respected. The attitude of the coach will rub off on the parents, leaving the referee some freedom to officiate without fear of making mistakes.
The FA's Respect campaign addresses touchline behaviour, attempting to protect our children from over enthusiastic parents, while allowing our referees to officiate without fear or reprisals.
Visit the FA's respect website for more information.
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