Friday, 16 May 2014

Sunday kids football ... I hate the aggression of the parents.

Both my boys love football. They play every Sunday from September through to May and train every Wednesday. Over the years I have watched in rain, shine, snow and frost. I have been excited, bored, proud and annoyed, but I have always been there. Unfortunately the worst bit about watching my boys play football ... is the presence of other parents.

Despite the F.A's Respect campaign there are still large numbers of parents who watch children's football and are absolutely obnoxious.

For me, there are games where I am just relieved when the final whistle blows and we have escaped without any major arguments. The awful thing is that the aggression of the parents spills into the play of their children. Almost without fail the teams who play aggressively and dirtily are those whose parents stand on the touchline screaming at the referee and questioning every decision made.

Yesterday the referee at my son's match had to warn one of the opposition parents to be quiet or he would ask him to leave. There was no sheepish apology from an over excited dad - just a stream of "I paid me money dint I? I can say what I like!!"

One of their players, on a one on one with our goal keeper, decided that as he couldn't win the ball fairly (our goalie had picked up the ball already) he would punch the boy on the shoulder as he ran past. Our goalie went down. Luckily he hung onto the ball so no advantage was gained, but the boy was not warned, not yellow carded, not taken off by his coach. In fact the adults on his side seemed to find his actions highly amusing.

It just makes me sad that the value of sportsmanship is lost in these situations. It is all about testosterone and anger. The desire to win at any cost is all that counts and goals are met with shrieking and growling. The decisions of line judges are questioned and referees are intimidated by middle aged men who should know better.

I don't know why this is, but I know that I hate it. Personally I applaud good play from either side and expect my son to shake hands with the opposition when the match is finished. I expect fair play from both children and parents. I understand that referees and linesmen make mistakes and it is ... just a game.

The fact is that parents' attitudes impact on their children and if aggression on the part of adults is seen as acceptable then that aggression spreads to their boys. Swearing and late tackling seem to be accepted too. Both my boys had considered training as referees to earn a bit of money at the weekends, but I'm not sure if I really want them to have to undergo the abuse shouted from both the touchlines and on the pitch itself. One week the opposition parents were all drinking alcohol on the touchline as they screamed and shouted - outrageous.

We once had a man whose son played for our team and he was one of the most revolting people I have ever met. He was a bully - as mean to his own son as he was to everyone else. The rest of us as parents stood away from him and I found myself apologising for his behaviour to the opposition one day. He would scream at his son to "Break their legs!!!! Take him out!!!" He was, after calling a mother from another team "Scum!!", ejected from our club. And yet he is now to be seen "supporting" his son as he plays for another team.

I think that this is more than a "football" thing. It is an issue of education, social skills and expectations.

 Not everybody who watches kids' football is a Neanderthal. The parents of my sons' teams are nice, decent people who applaud good play from either side and support each other as well as their children as we huddle in the rain through the winter months. But the message of Respect is not getting through to all of the people and it is those people who ruin football. They are rude, disrespectful and generally obnoxious and, sadly, no amount of campaigning will change them. I will continue to be grateful at the end of each match when we have made it through safely again. And that really is outrageous.


chickenruby said...

i used to work as a County Welfare Officer for The FA, I received many emails and phone calls similar to the content of your blog post. The advice I would give was for the complainant to contact their Club Welfare Officer (CWO) this is a compulsory position for affiliation with The FA and your local league.
Explain what was going on at your child's match and ask them to come to the next home game so they could monitor the situation for themselves.
The CWO should introduce themselves to the opposition manager prior to the game and to state why they were there, also to let the referee know of their presence.
If they observed behaviour that broke the code of conduct to speak with the CWO for the other club, encourage the ref to record this on his match report and inform The FA Welfare Officer.
I hope this helps and that you get the feedback and support you are looking for.

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thank you Suzanne.I appreciate you taking time to comment. I know that the FA does have measures in place and that they are trying to end the behaviour I mentioned.The season is now over, but I will follow your advice next season.
The difficulty is often the male dominated structure of football clubs. As a woman one is often considered a "lesser being" by some of the men who run clubs. They don't take criticism or enquiries as to their reasoning behind decisions well!
I feel strongly about this though and I will chat to my son's coach about how to approach the situation too.
I will keep you informed!

ian thompson said...

Hello, I realise this post is a year old now, but today a reffed a game and had a hatful of abuse from the parents and coaches of the away team. I am an amateur ref as no one else wants to do the job, I tend to favour the away team in a spirit of fair play, I abide by the FA rules of respect. sadly, this will be the last time I will do this. what a horrible experience, just because I am a grown man, doesn't mean I don't have feelings. A great post, and very well observed. cheers,

thechickendoesjoburg said...

Almost a year on and I've finally remembered where to find you to ask you how you got on last season with the football. Did you manage to resolve the issues?

Sarah Pellew said...

Hello Ian, Thanks for commenting.I'm so sad that you have experienced exactly what I write about in my post. It is so wrong.What a shame that you are going to step away, but, to be honest, I don't blame you at all. A year on from writing this I would say that things are, if anything, worse.
My son's team came second in their league and won a cup final a week or so ago. But the season was again marred by aggressive behaviour from parents. You might be appalled to know (Suzanne as well, hello, by the way!! And thanks for coming back!!) At the final one of the opposition coaches was sent off for swearing at our players and for general aggressive behaviour. The opposition parents screamed and growled, shrieking things such as "Ow many legs you broken this season, son?" and one of their players said to my son, as he was lying on the ground having been taken out in a crushing tackle "Get up you f****ing c***" I just despair and I'm afraid I have little faith in the FA doing anything when they allow high profile Premier League players to get away with similar and worse.
Its so sad and really rather disgraceful.
Good luck to you Ian and thanks for coming back Suzanne x

thechickendoesjoburg said...

my eldest son was a FA qualified ref until his work forced him to give up, many times he was abused by managers, players and spectators and reported every incident, clubs get fined and eventaully they will do something about it including stopping a child from playing so that the parents who cause the troubles won't be there anymore. As a welfare officer the parents would then call me and tell me their child was being victimised. In every case I would reply that the manager chooses who plays in the team and why would you as a parent keep subjecting your child to the disappointment of not being picked due to your own behaviour

thechickendoesjoburg said...

BTW my eldest is now returning to coaching and being a ref