Anyone who has experienced school football will confirm it can be a very difficult job refereeing proceedings with advice from parents ringing in your ears.
Sometimes, teachers can be the sole official. Take this up a notch to the grass roots game, and things can get decidedly worse. It’s nothing new, but sadly the situation has gradually worsened in recent times to the point some match officials have given up the game completely because of the abuse they receive on a regular basis.
And it’s not just older referees either as Joe Craven explains: “I’m a grass-roots referee. I get offered a fight almost every week by players in my game. I have even been offered fights by coaches of junior teams after making decisions that did not go their team’s way. It’s disgraceful to act this way to a teenager who is simply doing it for a small match fee, and giving something back to the game.
The Football Association Take Drastic Action
There are many more stories like this one – enough for The Football Association to take drastic action. They’ve introduced stringent new measures in an attempt to stamp out this unruly and worrying behaviour.
Any player found guilty of assaulting any official can now expect to receive a minimum ban of five years from the game. Anyone who decides to make actual physical contact with an official can expect not only an 84-day ban, but also a £100 fine. In fact, any individual guilty of threatening officials can look forward to a minimum ban of 56 days or six matches.
While these offer stringent punishments they are actually only the bare minimum in terms of bans and fines. A commission will have the power to increase the sanctions depending on aggravating factors. The FA have been looking very closely at this long term problem, and as a result 32 grass roots leagues across England will also be trialling sin bins for the 2017-18 season.
Already a big success in rugby, there seems to be little reason why it can’t make a difference in football at all levels. It means players will have to spend 10 minutes out of the game if they’ve been shown a yellow card for dissent. In fairness at all levels, the pressure on match officials has never been greater. At the highest level, cameras at every angle capture everything these-days, so mistakes tend not to go un-noticed.
But the major concern seems to be the negative attitudes fostered by a minority of players, parents and coaches. It’s also about educating and setting an example to new generations of youngsters. Everyone likes to win, but winning at all costs is not of benefit to the beautiful game for sure.
New Governance Codes
The government is currently working with national governing bodies across the board sports creating new governance codes. New public-funding rounds begin next year. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has said: “We’ve made it clear that all sports governing bodies have to reform their governance codes.” The FA is not excluded from that and, if they don’t, they won’t get public funding. It’s as simple as that.“ The world is changing at pace, and nothing stands still. If football is to continue as a passionate and emotional game, it’s clear levels of respect all round must improve.
The new laws, to be introduced for the 2017-18 season, will apply to ‘step five’ – four tiers beneath the National League – and leagues below. This time next year, it’s hoped we will be able to analyse positive results from these new initiatives.
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