Ipswich’s Nathan French wants to put ‘respect’ at the core of English football through key FA role

Nathan French is leaving Suffolk FA for a job with the national FA

Nathan French is leaving Suffolk FA for a job with the national FA - Credit: Archant

From the Premier League to the grassroots game, Ipswich’s Nathan French is hoping to be the man that puts positivity throughout the core of English football.

The 30-year-old former Copleston High School pupil and Woodbridge Town Reserves player has been appointed as the Football Association’s main man in charge of the ‘Respect’ programme nationally and will start his new role next month.

It’s a big task given that, since its launch in 2008, the project has had its critics and from big stadia to park pitches, cases of abuse and bad behaviour by players and parents continue to make unwanted headlines.

“I think the ‘Respect’ programme has had a positive affect so far,” said French. “First of all, if you speak to anyone in football they will say they have heard of it. The statistics about abuse across each county have gone down and we have 5,000 extra referees nationally.

“However, no doubt about it, there is still a lot to do. We’ve got to look at how we can unite the game and have everybody singing off the same songsheet. I’ll be working out of Wembley and St George’s Park, but will be travelling all over the country talking to key partners like the Premier League, Football League and ‘Kick It Out’ (racism campaign), as well as the bodies in charge of referees, coaches, managers and players.

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“The professional game and grassroots is totally different and there can’t be a one size fits all approach, but there has to be a theme of respect running all the way through.

“The FA is developing the ‘Emerging DNA’, a philosophy which runs through the English game. We will be developing how the ‘Respect’ programme is embedded in that. We want young players to be able to express themselves on the pitch and that can only happen if we create a culture of positivity and fun for them.”

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Father-of-two French started out as a coach before moving into a development role at Suffolk FA in 2012.

“It would be naïve of me to say that young players don’t copy what they see at the top level, but we need to move away from a blame culture and instead focus on putting into place best practices,” he said. “We have to focus on what we can control and affect.

“There will be new marketing strategies with positive role models, but we can’t just rely on them to be the lynchpins. We need to encourage everybody at all levels and in all areas of the game to take responsibility.

“We are all involved in the game because we love football and it’s a case of reminding people of that. The more that feeling of positivity spreads, hopefully the people who shout and say things that aren’t helpful begin to realise that they are not contributing.”

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