Bad behaviour in junior football is ‘a disease’ that’s spreading

Hazel Burgess pictured receiving county and regional FA Chartered Standard League awards  last year on behalf of the Junior Alliance League.
Hazel Burgess pictured receiving county and regional FA Chartered Standard League awards last year on behalf of the Junior Alliance League.
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Abusive behaviour in junior football in the Peterborough area is worse now than it’s ever been.

That’s the opinion of long-serving Junior Alliance League secretary Hazel Burgess, who claims young referees are being verbally abused on a far too regular basis by players, managers and parents.

And in a bid to address the worrying problem, a strongly worded letter has been circulated to all Junior Alliance League clubs urging them to mend their ways.

Burgess, the league secretary and welfare officer, and her husband David, the league chairman, compiled the letter and Hazel says some of the touchline behaviour is ‘absolutely appalling’.

She said: “David and myself have been involved with the Junior Alliance League for 28 years and we’ve never known it so bad.

“The bad language used by parents towards referees is disgusting and it has got to stop.

“Most of our referees are under 16 - 98 per cent of them in fact - and they’re becoming scared to death of angry parents on the touchline.

“Players are also doing it as well. We’re getting under 11 and under 12 players red-carded for bad behaviour and it’s even creeping into mini-soccer - that’s under 9 and under 10 football.

“It’s shocking and we’re simply not going to tolerate it any longer.

“It’s a disease spreading all too quickly. I don’t know the reason or who’s to blame - whether it’s the parents, the schools or seeing Premiership footballers on the TV abuse referees - I don’t know.

“But we’ve got to cut it out.”

Hazel went on to say that parents who are shouting abuse at referees are guilty of breaking a promise.

“We have 350 teams in the league and all bar one of our clubs is an FA Charter standard club.

“When players sign for those clubs they and their parents have to fill in a registration form agreeing to adhere to the Respect code of conduct.

“Clearly some of them are breaking that promise.”

When asked whether she would consider quitting her post if the situation doesn’t improve, Hazel said: “I don’t want to answer that question. But at th end of the day I do this job voluntarily to provide pleasure for children who want to play football. And at the moment there’s no pleasure in it.

“Too many people involved in junior football today think it’s all about winning - it’s not. It’s about teaching children to play football.”

The sad state of affairs will be top of the agenda when the Junior Alliance League hold their monthly meeting next week.

n The FA Charter standard accreditation is awarded to clubs and leagues rigorously adjudged to be well-run and sustainable - and which prioritise child protection, quality coaching and implementation of the Respect Programme.

The letter sent to all Junior Alliance Football League clubs . . . .

2nd February 2018

To All Club Secretaries and Club Welfare Officers

I am very disappointed, upset, and disgusted at some of the behaviour that has been reported this season from players on the field of play, managers, and spectators/parents abusing and threatening young referees.

The last two weeks alone we have had three very serious incidents to deal with, all involving young referees under the age of 16. The League has had the most disciplinary reports this season than it has ever had and IT HAS TO STOP

This season we have even received reports of mini-soccer games being abandoned and reports of parents swearing at young referees, some of the referees appointed to mini -soccer are only 14 years of age. this is disgusting.

Managers should use the roll on substitution rule and remove any player for five/10 minutes who is starting to show dissent or dangerous play to calm them down, even if it is your best player, at least you may save him/her from a suspension

Ninety-eight per cent of referees officiating on Junior Alliance games are all under the age of 16, they all come under child protection, they are all trainee referees who have to start their refereeing career on the youngest league in the area, please note this is The Peterborough & District Junior Alliance League. They are not men they are children just the same as players, they are all being appointed to take charge of a game. Do give them all a chance and remember some children develop quicker than others, we do not give up, we work very hard trying to help them. We need all Clubs/Teams /Managers and Spectators/Parents to show them the RESPECT they deserve. This could be your child one day, how would you feel listening to some of the comments we hear around the touchlines when we attend games

Finally remember every player signed up to Respect when they signed their registration form as did every parent.

Please make every manager aware the PJAL will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. They have to act in a responsible manner and set an example for their players and spectators.

All referees are being advised at next week’s Referees Association meeting that they are to report all cases of abuse, disrespect and insulting language to the county FA the club is affiliated to. It was discussed at great length last week at the Spalding Referees Association meeting. We already have two managers serving a six-week suspension and having to attend a Respect course with their county FA.

Club Welfare Officers please attend games to make sure everyone is abiding to the RESPECT CODE OF CONDUCT.

This is not acceptable.

Kind regards

Hazel Burgess

General Secretary/League Welfare Officer