Northumberland Football League tells parents 'no place for abuse' on sidelines at youth matches

The sanctions follow a rise in reports of 'abuse' towards referees by parents, players and staff. Credit: PA

A North East grassroots football league is threatening to ban teams from playing after an "incredible amount" of abusive behaviour from parents, players and staff.

Northumberland Football League, one of the largest youth leagues in the country, has warned that all member clubs found guilty of disrespecting officials will be removed from fixtures.

It follows a rise in reports of abuse towards referees by parents, players and staff.

In a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, Lee Scott, Northumberland Football League secretary, said: "The behaviour and conduct of far too many players, managers, coaches, and spectators is the worst we have ever seen in the history of the Northumberland Football League.

"The discipline reports coming in over the first 10 weeks of the season, just to Northumberland Football Leagues, have given us and the County FA an incredible amount of work, on top of everything else we do to keep you playing football.

"I am not going to lecture adults on how they should behave, it's not my job to teach you the difference between right and wrong, but what I will say is THIS BEHAVIOUR STOPS, AND IT STOPS NOW!"

The sanctions could force junior teams to forfeit their place in cups and competitions.

Parents found to be acting in an unsuitable manner, particularly shouting at, verbally or physically abusing any referee, steward, league official, venue staff or opposition coaches will be permanently banned from spectating.

The new rules will be in effect from Saturday 18 November, the youth league's board announced.

Mr Scott continued: "This is children’s football - there is no place for abuse of any type - if you cannot watch a group of children playing football without feeling the need to abuse/shout at a child be they a player or a referee, or you cannot spend an hour and a half without swearing at the opposition coach or confronting a group of parents - then please ask yourself if you have chosen the correct way to spend your weekends.

"We are a Respect League and respect towards players, the officials and each other is the minimum standard which we will accept - NO RESPECT = NO GAME."

The statement was concluded with the hashtag "enough is enough".

Last year Northumberland Football Association (FA) joined forces with TeamGrassroots to promote its ‘100 per cent positive’ campaign which encouraged players to respect referees' decisions.

In response to the league's statement, Northumberland FA said 80 misconduct charges have been raised from over 3000 matches played across adult and youth leagues since the start of this season.

They said with 226 misconduct charges were raised last season, with 97% of incidents proven and dealt with accordingly at disciplinary hearings.

Northumberland FA told ITV Tyne Tees: "Any instances of poor behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is the responsibility of everyone in the game to report where they have observed poor behaviour so we can address this.

“Our staff team at Northumberland FA conducts regular visits to matchdays and training sessions to observe behaviour and provide appropriate guidance and action if required.

“We also provide ongoing support to our young, affiliated referees, providing them with individual advice and support, plus training and education on how to manage matches and address any challenging behaviour."

The association's Respect and Reward scheme allows referees to score the behaviour of players, coaches and spectators. The average score from last season was 9.1 out of 10, from over 1000 entries.

The upcoming launch of a ‘mystery shopper’ style pilot scheme will also see officials conduct match day visits to observe the behaviour of players, coaches and spectators.

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