Rise in trouble at youth football games

EXCLUSIVEFOOTBALL chiefs are calling for parents to behave themselves at youth matches following an increase in abuse and violence from the touchline.

By Juliette Maxam

EXCLUSIVE

FOOTBALL chiefs are calling for parents to behave themselves at youth matches following an increase in abuse and violence from the touchline.

Youth football league officials in Essex are dealing with rising numbers of disciplinary matters against parents who are abusing officials and players from the touchline and in some cases either inciting violence or hitting people themselves.


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Recent incidents include a parent allegedly urging his child to hit another player at a Stanway Villa under-10s game and a parent allegedly head-butting a player in an under-16s Stanway Villa v Great Bradfords match last month.

Colchester and District Youth Football League president Lieutenant Colonel Peter Andrews said: “These sort of things happen quite regularly where parents become involved in abuse against either children or parents of the other team. It's unbelievable. It's a nightmare.”

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He said the league meets frequently to deal with misconduct cases against parents. Several cases have resulted in parents being banned from games.

“We are trying to stamp this out. We have got to stop these forms of misconduct by parents. Children do not benefit,” said Lt Col Andrews.

Colin McAuley , a talent scout for the Ipswich Football Academy, attends youth matches in the Colchester area most weekends, covering the under-eights to under-15s.

He said he has seen an increase in abuse from parents against players and officials and it is becoming a “serious problem”.

“Referees can now abandon matches if they get too much abuse from parents and the club is then responsible for people who are watching.”

He added: “Mums and dads have got to calm down and let the boys and girls enjoy the game.”

Essex Football Association has seen an increase in disciplinary matters against parents at youth matches. Press and publicity officer Matt Philips said: “We don't like to hear about instances like this at all. A lot of parents get caught up thinking their kids are playing in the premiership at Wembley. It's important when children are playing football they enjoy it with friends - win or lose.”

Colchester United manager Phil Parkinson, whose own children take part in team sports including football, said: “I think, from my point of view, I've watched a lot of kids' football. There are quite a lot of incidents of that sort happening in kids' football.

“Parents need to have a long look at themselves. What type of values do they want to teach their children? I think it's so important the parents set a good example on the touchline, otherwise children are going to stop enjoying the game.

“When children are aged 10, 11, 12, it's not about winning, it's about participating and also understanding you don't always get your own way in life or sport. There are decisions against you. It's about learning to accept those decisions. Life and sport doesn't always go your way.”

He said incidents of abuse from the touchline could be because parents' ambitions for their children to do well.

“A lot of parents are so desperate for their kids to become footballers it becomes an obsession,” he added.

Youth teams' codes of conducts include sections for parents, reminding them to behave in a sporting manner at all times and not to coach from the sidelines.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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