Barriers for youth soccer

PUBLISHED: 10:50 30 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:10 05 July 2010

BARRIERS are to be used around football pitches while thousands of youngsters play matches in a bid to tackle the growing problem of parents and coaches abusing referees.

BARRIERS are to be used around football pitches while thousands of youngsters play matches in a bid to tackle the growing problem of parents and coaches abusing referees.

Norfolk Football Association is at the forefront of a new nationwide Respect initiative being launched this weekend to clean up the game - and over-zealous spectators on the touchline “living their dreams through their children” are a key target.

One of the elements of the strategy is for youth teams to put barriers down the sides of pitches to keep spectators well back from the action and discourage abuse of officials.

About 10,000 under-18s play league football in Norfolk and the FA wants to put the fun back into the game and halt the drop-out of referees.

The barriers - which are one part of the Respect programme along with issues such as codes of conduct and captains taking more responsibility - will not be compulsory this season but could be in future years.

Youth teams will be able to get a kit including the stakes and tape for £36 and the first ones are likely to be in use in early November.

Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner said parents of children aged six to 14 were among the main offenders who put “unnecessary pressure on children from the sidelines.”

“Parents and coaches need to be role models and they need to ensure they are not arguing with refs and they have to accept decisions as part of the game. Some over-excited parents and coaches live the dream through their children.”

Mr Turner said the Norfolk FA was being pro-active and at the forefront of promoting the Respect programme.

He said it would only take “two or three minutes” to put up the barriers before a game.

A national survey of 37,000 referees in all forms of football revealed 98pc had been verbally abused.

The Respect programme was supported by officials from youth and adult leagues who attended a Norfolk FA meeting on Thursday.

John Finch, of the Breckland and District Sunday League, said: “It has the potential to make a big difference, especially in the youth game.”

Mike Lane - coach of Mulbarton Wanderers' under 11s - said of the new initiative: “It is an absolutely fantastic idea.”

The club already puts up a rope to keep spectators away from the pitch and Mr Lane said he had seen an incident at another ground where a referee had to go off to calm parents down.

“Youth football is meant to be non-competitive and fun but parents make it very competitive and they are coaching from the side lines and querying decisions.

“It is probably the biggest problem we have at this age level.”

Mr Lane said the young players were generally very well behaved.

“I have not seen one incident of kids arguing back.”

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