The FA is responding to a plea from grassroots football to tackle unacceptable behaviour in football.

Why football needs Respect

Respect aims to bring the fun back to football for young players. Parents and coaches pushing too hard and pressurising impressionable children for three points is having a negative impact on their development and enjoyment of the game.

  • 98% of referees have been verbally abused and 27% have been physically abused.
  • One in three grassroots matches is now played without a qualified match official.
  • 846 grassroots matches were abandoned in 2007/08 due to unacceptable behaviour from players and/or spectators.
  • Parents and coaches want role models in the elite game to provide a positive example for young players.
  • The No.2 priority from grassroots football is tackling the ‘pushy parent’ placing too much pressure on their child and their child’s team from the sidelines.

What is Respect?

Respect is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in football, at all levels, to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place. It is the behavioural code for football.

Respect is a continuous FA programme, not a one-off initiative.

What do we want to achieve with Respect?

  1. There will be a base of registered referees in England sufficient for the demands of the game at every level.
  2. There will be zero tolerance for assaults on referees.
  3. There will be an improvement in on-field player discipline, particularly in the area of dissent to referees and in competitions that have an established record of poor discipline.
  4. There will be a ‘step change‘ in youth football on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from parents and spectators.
  5. We will work with coaches to create an enjoyable learning environment for children’s football.

How do we achieve Respect?

For clubs, the Respect programme includes four practical steps to improve behaviour – on the pitch and on the sidelines – in and at matches throughout the country:

Step 1: Codes of Conduct
Step 2: Designated Spectators’ Area
Step 3: The captain takes responsibility
Step 4: The referee manages the game.

Step one:
Codes of Conduct
Codes of Conduct aren’t new, we as a Charter Standard club already have them. Some are successful, some are forgotten and are not acted upon.

Respect brings them to life.

How? By supporting and strengthening the Codes of Conduct with possible consequences. There is little point in having a set of rules if no action is taken if and when they’re broken.

There are Respect Codes of Conduct for:

  • Young Players
  • Adult Players
  • Spectators and Parents/Carers
  • Coaches, Team Managers and Club Officials
  • Match Officials.

Each Code explains that actions can be taken if the Code is broken. Although your County FA or The FA will deal with cases of reported misconduct, clubs and leagues also have a role to play in dealing with poor behaviour from players, officials or spectators. This can range from education, mentoring, official warnings, suspension or even exclusion from the club.

Respect works on placing responsibility for their actions on individuals: break your Code, and bear the consequences.

Step two:
Designated Spectators’ Areas
One of the key elements of Respect in youth football is the creation of designated areas for spectators. This area can be marked by an additional line, the use of cones, a roped-off area or use of a temporary spectators’ barrier.

The areas literally draw the line which parents and spectators should not cross and research has shown it to have a beneficial impact on the behaviour of spectators and their impact on players and match officials.

If using the Respect barriers endorsed by The FA the ideal arrangement is to mark out a Designated Spectators’ Area on one side of the pitch for fans and parents/carers from both sides to stand behind.

This allows the coaches of both teams to stand on the other side of the pitch, meaning players get instructions from just one side of the pitch.

Step three:
The captain takes responsibility. Often problems start at matches when individual players are abusive towards the referee, which escalates into several players confronting the referee at the same time – then it’s anarchy.

Respect aims to stop this cycle before it starts. Only the captain can challenge decisions made by the referee and the captain needs to manage his/her team to ensure this is always observed.

Step four:
The referee manages the game.

As the referee, you are expected to work with the team captains to manage the players and the game effectively. You must control the game by applying the Laws of the Game and deal firmly with any open show of dissent by players. (e.g. not move away from the incident, but stay and deal with it).

While recognising that players may on occasions make an appeal for a decision (e.g. a throw-in, corner or goal-kick), it is important you distinguish these from an act of dissent which should be punished with a caution.

The FA Respect