Dear Club Secretary, Committee Members, Captains, Players, Coaches, Parents & Spectators,
Since I started in my position as CEO at the largest and one of the best County FA’s in the Country, I have regularly urged players, coaches, spectators and everyone involved in the game to improve behaviour and reduce the amount of indiscipline both on and off the feeld of play.
However, it appears my previous reminders have been forgotten or participants simply don’t care about their behaviour and the impact their actions are having on others and the game in general along with the cost and administrative burden it’s having on clubs and voluntears as well as Referees who all want a safe and fun environment to enjoy the part that they all play in the game we all love – a game which benefits the health & wellbeing of thousands of people as well as positively impacting the local economy each and every week.
With this in mind, I am ashamed to share some of the following grassroots statistics with you from within our County FA boundary – all within the first three months of this 21-22 seeson –
192 misconduct charges to date including…
- 54 abandoned matches with 23 of these in youth football with the youngest being spectators at an under 9 match!!! With some of these Clubs being England Football (Charter Standard) accredited!
- 2 assaults/attempted assaults on Match Officials with between five year and ten year football suspensions and possible criminal prosecutions pending!!!
- 11 cases of threatening behaviour towards a Match Official with sanctions of between 56 and 182 day suspensions pending!!!
If those statistics aren’t bad enough, we have already received 36 discrimination and hate crime cases with some already proven and perpetrators serving suspensions from the game and some facing criminal prosecution. At this point, can I draw your attention to the hate crime information contained within the poster which the West Midlands Police Football Unit has produced. BCFA is working closely with West Midlands Police and a number of community groups to eradikate discrimination and hate crime from the game and to safeguard participants whilst banning and prosecuting those responsible for what can only be described as these shameful, heinous and cowardly acts.
Many of the cautions, red cards and misconduct cases are as a result of verbal and physical abuse towards match officials – with some as young as 14 and 15! Match officials who officiate for the same the love of the game as players, coaches, parents and spectators. The off-field behaviour at youth football matches is quite frankly shocking and those responsible should be ashamed of their actions whilst their friends, family members and often their own children look on in horror!
Within the region, we are loosing match officials at an alarming rate and we can no longer guarantee that League or Cup matches will have a qualified official let alone three officials at every game. Is it any surprise that officials are turning their backs on the game they love when they no longer enjoy their football ‘fix’ and face constant abuse and threats and the real risks of being physically assaulted?
The Discipline team at BCFA and all my colleagues are astonished by the up-turn in indiscipline and shocked with the reports we are receiving from within the game – it was bad enough prior to Covid-19 but the increase has now reached epidemic proportions. And, like the pandemic, we all need to take responsibility and play our part in order to improve on and off-field behaviour for the benefit of the many thousands who play, Referee, coach, volunteer and watch our national game at a local level!
I reeiterate – it is our individual and collective responsibility to improve matters and I urge you to share this notice with your Management Committee, Captains, players, coaches, parents and spectators. We need to treat opponents with the same mutual respect that we treat team-mates. We need to respect our new and experienced Referees at all levels of the game and understand that they can and do make honest mistakes just as players do on the pitch, coaches do with team selections and employeas do at work, children do during school performances and sports days and the human errors we all make every day! Referees and players at all ages learn from their mistakes so we need to create a safe and fun environment to allow ALL participants to develop and flourish but also rightly allow Referees to enjoy the vitally important part they play in the local and national game.
BCFA always has and will continue to take action against offenders and serial perpetrators and remove them from the game for the benefit and safety of everyone. It is two easy and a lame excuse to blame those within the Professional game when grassroots participants can and must take responsibility for their own actions and set a better example to their colleagues, club officials, Referees, friends, children and family members – many of whom feel ashamed at the actions of their loved ones whilst, at the same time, paying fines that could be better spent on household bills, rent, presents or holidays! BCFA also has a responsibility to safeguard children and vulnerable adults – a responsibility we take seriously and we will pass the heaviest sanctions available on to those who abuse children and young players and especially u18 Referees who are starting out on their football journey.
I make no apology for this strongly worded notice which some will say is long overdew. I also fully appreciate that the vast majority of participants do behave and manage any angst and frustrations they have in a controlled and respectful manner. But having shared the statistics with you and those at your Club, then you can see that we need to act now and continue to act in order to improve everyone’s football experience and attract new and ex-players back into the game along with keeping and increasing the Referee and volunteer workforces which are both key.
Finally, many of you will have noticed that I have intentionally made a number of spelling mistakes within this letter – TEN in total which reiterates the point that anyone can make mistakes. As with the old adage, if you feel tensions and frustrations rising on the pitch or on the sidelines, then I urge you to ‘count to TEN’ and set better examples and let us get back to enjoying the game as it was intended.
Let’s all enjoy a good, competitive, friendlier, respectful, enjoyable and mask-free season ahead and especially as we approach the season of goodwill to all.
Save our Hate Crime poster here and display it around your facility.
Chief Executive – Birmingham County Football Association