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Feedback from Wembley on "Respect"

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Forum members kindly provided me with a wealth of material that I used to prepare myself for the meeting of the nation’s “Respect” movers and shakers, at Wembley last week. I think it is reasonable to, in return, provide some feedback on my impressions of the day. Once more YOUR RESPONSE, YOUR VIEWS, will be welcomed.

First, and most important, my views do not represent those of the F.A or the CCFA. They are my own impressions and may not be an absolutely accurate reflection of the day’s proceedings. This is not a set of minutes, it’s an account of my personal experience of the day. Ray Brown was the CCFA representative.


It appeared to be a common view that the Respect campaign had done much to improve the behaviour at youth football. The expectations for behaviour, of particularly parents, at matches has changed significantly and clubs and League officials feel empowered to tackle inappropriate behaviour. There was an entertaining talk from a Daily Telegraph reporter/author who recounted how he’d realised just what a problem parent he was and how he’d successfully mended his ways. Interesting anecdote about a match in the States where, when a parent was giving the ref grief, the ref booked his son. I like that.

At the top level of our game Chris Foy, premiership referee, was convinced that it was much better since the Respect campaign started. At that level, the relationship between players, managers and the referee had improved significantly. (Perhaps my lip-reading from the TV isn’t as good as I thought it was.)

There seemed to be universal agreement that Respect has done little for bog standard, grass-roots adult men’s football - the bit I’m interested in. My view is that there is absolutely nothing at all in it to cause any player or club to change one bit. It was acknowledged that the sanctions were not clear. “The County Associations have powers to take action.” They have always had powers to take action but it is obvious that it is ineffective. Rewards. What rewards? No one could recall a single instance of a County Association either rewarding or sanctioning any adult club or player under the umbrella of the Respect campaign.

Many pointed out that there was a small but significant minority who associated Respect with referees earning the respect of players and clubs. I think everyone in the room had encountered this view of respect and soundly rejected it. My feedback from the forum contained an element of that. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP. The guy who goes along to make it possible for two teams to enjoy their sport – in the face of abuse and constant criticism - gets my respect. A no-brainer. Clubs and players, if they want to carry on playing this beautiful game, have to respect the officials through thick and thin, right or wrong, good or bad. Where is the logic in paying a guy to make decisions for you and then questioning every one he makes? Fundamentally stupid. It would be fine if every referee, from day 1, had authority, charisma, charm, eyes like a hawk and a quick brain. But, lets get real

I gave a presentation about the scheme we run in the West Cornwall Sunday League for rewarding clubs who treat referees properly. I had the figures that showed that it actually worked. There seemed to be much interest with sharp intakes of breath when, at the end, I proposed that we consider deducting points from clubs that don’t treat referees properly. I asked the meeting for one argument against doing this. How it’s O.K to dock points from a professional club for getting into financial difficulties and yet it’s not O.K. to do the same to a grass roots club that’s threatening the very structure of our game? There was a deafening silence.

The F.A. are piloting a scheme where referees mark the clubs out of 5 for their sporting attitude. It is only a pilot, looks like about 20 clubs, and they haven’t actually told the refs what they are looking for in the marking. (Our league has had referees marking clubs for at least the last 15 years. We have a complete set of guidelines to tell referees what constitutes a 10/10 performance, a 9/10 and so on.)

There was a discussion in small groups to consider what was useful or not so useful about the Respect. My group wanted clearer sanctions, linked to the Respect ethos. As far as I could tell, every group seemed to be in favour of deducting points and having a look again at the “9.1 metre (10 yard) rule”.

The day finished with a tour of the stadium. The changing rooms were quite impressive. Each player’s locker was approximately as big as the changing rooms at Nancegollan. 3pegs each! A safe was provided for players' bling that was clearly too small as it was only as big as a Transit van. Do they really need a bath and a shower for every player? They must be a filthy lot.

It was an interesting day. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt that, as a club secretary, a league secretary and a player – outside the mainstream F.A. system, I had something to contribute.

I think that the scheme we run in the Sunday League is worth trying in a larger, Saturday league within Cornwall. The experience of referees in the Sunday league has been improved, fantastically. If your league can be persuaded to try, I’m quite happy to come along to a league meeting to explain it fully. Get a League official to contact me.

Bill Lamin

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