Respect campaign: FA gear up for key season

Michael Bailey The FA's Respect programme has been declared a success in its first year - but more has to be done in the professional game for the initiative to achieve its full potential.

Michael Bailey

The FA's Respect programme has been declared a success in its first year - but more has to be done in the professional game for the initiative to achieve its full potential.

That is the view of Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner, who has helped drive Respect to the forefront in the county since its arrival in August.

The programme has had a limited effect on offences such as dissent and insulting behaviour, while incidents such as the abuse from Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack directed at Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo continue to undermine progress.

But Turner said: "For me, the major success from year one is people are talking about it. It's been launched, we're into it and at the end of the season we're still talking about it. What we have to do now is collectively promote it and keep it moving forward.

"One of the stumbling blocks we come across is the professional game. When you see the Chelsea and Barcelona game, people come back at us and say, 'how is this respect?' and it makes our job incredibly hard.

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"Everyone emulates their role models and the situation with Chelsea will just come back to everyone that plays on the local parks, and at times it does put us back a step. That's the same with the good of the game, that brings us forward two steps. So there's the good and the bad, but next season for me will be the key one."

The statistics tell part of the story. Bookings for dissent in the county's adult game were up four to 2,269 this season, out of 7,238 cautions - enough to make most managers see red.

Improper or insulting behaviour towards match officials, a sending off offence, also increased by 16 to 82, while abusive language or gestures towards match officials went up by 12 to 209 incidents since the summer.

Those figures, argues Turner, are why Respect's refereeing workshops, barriers and codes of conduct are starting to have an effect.

"Some will say Respect should cut out everything, but before that people have got to learn what they're doing wrong, and to learn what they're doing wrong they are going to be punished," said Turner.

"Initially I think there'll be an increase in cards because referees will be implementing the law firmer, then people will be aware of it and the following season I'd expect there to be a decline. It's that tipping point. It is a programme that's going to have some longevity, it's going to develop and I think next year it's going to make a bigger impression."

A big win for Norfolk FA has been a 22pc rise in the number of the county's registered referees to 327.

"We're bucking the trend," said Turner. "We're not losing referees, we're engaging with them early, we're offering them an opportunity and we're now actually covering on average 96pc of games on a Saturday and Sunday in the adult game.

"To have a 22pc increase when everyone's saying we're losing, nationally, 8,000 referees a year, is great. What I now need to do is make sure these 327 are active and that they're refereeing week in, week out."

The Respect programme will run until at least 2012 and Turner is hopeful re-education will see a change in football culture.

"Hopefully by then it will be embedded in the game and we won't need a Respect programme," said Turner. "You look at other sports, they don't have these programmes and it's a shame football needs it, but if that's the way it is, let's implement it and move things forward.

"I find it frustrating - and it's got to be frustrating for the FA as well - that we launch Respect and following that, the Premier League launched Get On With The Game - their own campaign. For me, that undermined everything the FA were trying to do. Why couldn't the Premier League just embrace Respect? Fifa and Uefa had Respect at the European Championships. The grassroots are doing it.

"It would be great if they just came together and put it forward because they are so powerful. Whatever we see on Match of the Day, children are copying on the Sunday morning, or adults are copying on the Saturday.

"I don't think at times they realise the impact they have - in the main positive, but unfortunately you look at Drogba and Ballack the other night and people will think they can do that."