Norfolk plays key role in getting message across
Paddy Davitt Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner insists the early signs look positive as the county spearheads the nationwide Respect campaign. King's Lynn FC hosted their latest festival of football road show, which saw players, coaches and parents from local youth teams learn more about the much publicised initiative.
Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner insists the early signs look positive as the county spearheads the nationwide Respect campaign.
King's Lynn FC hosted their latest festival of football road show, which saw players, coaches and parents from local youth teams learn more about the much publicised initiative.
Turner is keen to stress the importance of helping put the fun back into football as the new Respect strategy bids to improve standards of behaviour across both the professional and grassroots game.
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"The laws of football haven't changed with the Respect programme," he said. "This is more about highlighting particular areas to try and get football to where it should be. The feedback so far has been very positive. All our leagues have signed up to it and teams seem very interested in what will evolve this season and longer term.
"Locally we are trying to be at the forefront of what is going on. The Respect programme in relation to youth football is predominantly aimed at coaches and over excited parents.
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"We just want to educate them to let children enjoy the game and not put added pressure on them by running up and down the touchline shouting and screaming at them.
"We are very lucky. We have very few instances of that nature but I'd like to think with better education we can not only make it more enjoyable but also encourage more volunteers and referees."
Turner admitted arresting the national decline in referee numbers is also a key plank of the Respect initiative.
"There is a big decline nationally but in Norfolk we've actually been lucky in that we haven't seen that," he said. "We are looking to double the number of referees within the next four years so we have every adult game covered by a registered referee. That is why Respect is vital because the match officials should enjoy it as well. No one should be targeted for abuse."
Clubs can sign up to receive a Respect toolkit which contains guidance notes, codes of conduct and a free captain's armband. Youth clubs can also get free advice on purchasing subsidised spectator barriers around pitches.
Topps United coach Philip Yates backed Norfolk FA's proactive stance after taking part in a touchline management workshop at The Walks.
"There are some incredibly basic ideas that you actually think, 'why hasn't this happened before now'," he said. "Things like 'switch on' areas where the children can go to warm up if you want to make changes away from spectators.
"Even pinning the codes of conduct to the poles so everyone at the game knows what is expected.
"Something like this is long overdue. We've already tried barriers by putting up cones around the pitch and encouraging parents to stay behind them. I have seen incidents, not many, in my time but it tends to be parents having a go at children rather than the ref.
"But to have something like one in three games without an official referee is appalling. Without referees eventually you won't have a game. It's important that this is embraced at both ends of the game because these children look up to the professionals. If you see the likes of Wayne Rooney or whoever swearing it will find its way down to our level."
Norfolk FA was one of the first associations to roll out the Respect campaign and Turner admits the county is committed to improving the long term health of the national game.
"The success of this for me will be measured in the next four years," he said. "We have a strategy running to 2012 with lots of target - Respect being one of them within that.
"Recruiting additional referees and players is another part of it, growing the female game, sustaining the adult 11-a-side game and improving facilities.
"It's all part of our long term plan and hopefully if you speak to me in four years time I can tell you we've achieved these things."