Monday, February 09, 2015

FA Respect code more honoured in the breach?

What is it about kids football that brings out the worst in people?

Several weeks ago my son's under 16 team, St Edmunds, comfortably beat Barton Rovers 4-1 in the quarter final of the Berks & Bucks FA cup, in a game played in a generally good spirit. There was not even a remote hint of what was to come. The Barton manager was generally complimentary about St Eds performance and the home linesman on the day had been one of the fairest we had come across this season.

Preparing for a semi final against Ascot a few weeks ago, St Eds discovered the game had been postponed. Barton Rovers had lodged a formal complaint about player ID cards. St Eds' management team had to attend an FA hearing to discuss paperwork and ID cards under Berks & Bucks FA county cup rules 8(e) and 11(e)(ii). Barton Rovers declined to attend the hearing and sent a statement instead.

As I understand it, there was no question of any St Eds player being ineligible and any doubts to that effect could be easily settled, only that ID cards for all players were not produced on the day of the game.

The outcome of the hearing was that the FA ordered a replay of the quarter final.

This took place at Barton Rovers on Sunday, 8th February.

The atmosphere was tense from the start and didn't get any better as a blood and thunder cup tie played out with emotions running high on and off the pitch. The referee had a tough afternoon, producing a multitude of yellow cards and awarding four penalties, in a game that finished 4-3 to the home side. It's a testament to his impartiality that some players and supporters on both sides were consistently vocalising their displeasure, as the game ebbed and flowed.

Unfortunately, two of the ref's most heavily disputed decisions came in the closing five minutes or so, when he awarded the penalty from which Barton equalised and then the winning goal. When the whistle went for the penalty I assumed he was blowing for a free kick for two successive, really dangerous, two footed challenges on the St Eds' centre half. On the winning goal, he dismissed the linesman's flag and also missed a pretty blatant push in the back. Nevertheless, referees are human too, in spite of rumors to the contrary, and have to give the calls as they see them.

A hard fought cup tie had been shaded by Barton and St Eds would have to chalk it down to experience, pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get on with their efforts to win the league. Injustice is rampant in this world and if they have to experience it in the confined context of youth cup  football, it's tough but not life changing. I have to admit it's easier for me to say that now than it would have been when I was 15/16, though, as football was more important than life or death to that teenager.

It is a testament to the players and St Eds' management team that, in spite of the context of the replay and prevailing atmosphere, when they focused on playing football, they played really well.

However, after the final whistle and as the St Eds lads left the ground, there was little evidence on show from the Barton Rovers crew of adherence to the FA's respect agenda, noted so conspicuously on signs around the place. The taunting and cheering was, on the contrary, pretty shameful. The FA’s Respect Code of Conduct for coaches, managers and officials states:
We all bear a collective responsibility to set a good
example and help provide a positive environment
in which children can learn and enjoy the game.
Play your part and observe The FA’s Respect Code
of Conduct at all times.
On and off the field, I will:
• Use my position to set a positive example for the people
I am responsible for
• Show respect to others involved in the game including
match officials, opposition players, coaches, managers,
officials and spectators
• Adhere to the laws and spirit of the game
• Promote Fair Play and high standards of behaviour
• Respect the match official’s decision
• Never enter the field of play without the referee’s
• Never engage in, or tolerate, offensive, insulting or
abusive language or behaviour
• Be aware of the potential impact of bad language on
other participants, facility users or neighbours
• Be gracious in victory and defeat
For spectators and parents it says:
We all bear a collective responsibility to set a good
example and help provide a positive environment
in which children can learn and enjoy the game.
Play your part and observe The FA’s Respect Code
of Conduct for spectators at all times
• Remember that children play for FUN.
• Applaud effort and good play as well as success.
• Respect the Referee’s decisions even when you don’t
agree with them
• Appreciate good play from whatever team it comes from
• Remain behind the touchline and within the Designated
Spectators’ Area (where provided)
• Let the coaches do their job and not confuse the players
by telling them what to do
• Encourage the players to respect the opposition, referee
and match officials
• Support positively. When players make a mistake offer
them encouragement not criticism
• Never engage in, or tolerate, offensive, insulting, or
abusive language or behaviour
For players:
When playing football, I will:
• Always play to the best of my ability
and for the benefit of my team
• Play fairly – I won’t cheat, dive, complain
or waste time
• Respect my team-mates, the other team,
the referee or my coach/manager.
• Play by the rules, as directed by the referee
• Be gracious in victory and defeat – I will shake
hands with the other team and referee before
or at the end of the game
• Listen and respond to what my coach/team manager
tells me
• Understand that a coach has to do what is best
for the team and not one individual player
• Talk to someone I trust or the club welfare officer
if I’m unhappy about anything at my club.
Whether the referee and the observer from the Berk & Bucks FA choose to record the less than respectful post game behaviour, or anything else that may have drawn their attention, formally in their reports is entirely a matter for them. Irrespective of whether they do so or not, it was distinctly unpalatable. Despite being apparently gracious in defeat, at least immediately following the original match, whatever might be thought about the subsequent formal complaint about ID cards, there was no graciousness or respect on show following the controversial last minute victory snatched on Sunday afternoon.

I'll say it again. What is it about kids football that brings out the worst in people?

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