Silence will be golden on Suffolk’s soccer pitches this weekend

Suffolk FA launches the 'Silent Weekend', pictured left to right, development manager Nathan French

Suffolk FA launches the 'Silent Weekend', pictured left to right, development manager Nathan French and county development team members Mike Phillips, Phil Woolnough, Paige Shorten, Michael Cornall and Gary Pinyoun. - Credit: Archant

The unmistakable sound of a football crowd can be as much a part of the game as the action on the pitch itself.

Whether it’s the deafening roar that erupts when a striker finds the back of the net or the collective groan of a near-miss – it’s hard to imagine the beautiful game without the sounds to accompany it.

But away from the spectacle of top flight action, the noise from the sideline can have a more distracting effect – and for youth players, in particular, it is reported to stifle development, even making them reluctant to take part.

The Suffolk FA is hoping to counter that disruptive influence and bring the focus back on the players.

From February 21-23 it is hosting the county’s first “Silent Weekend” when spectators and coaches will be encouraged to refrain from cheering, chanting or shouting instructions and “let the players play”.


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Suffolk FA football development officer Michael Cornall, who is co-organising the weekend, said: “With so many different aspects to think about during the game of football, players need as little distractions as possible in order to aid their development.

“We firmly believe that ‘silent’ football will give players that environment where they can learn and make mistakes with a significantly reduced fear of criticism.”

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The initiative comes after growing numbers of misconduct offences are being committed by adult spectators at youth level football, including one in which a game was abandoned after a parent pulled up a metal post from the pitch and went after the referee.

Phil Sciberras, who coaches Martlesham Eagles’ youth team, said most spectators in Suffolk were well behaved.

“However, I’ve got nephews in other parts of the country where it’s a lot worse,” he added.

“At the end of the day, the players are there to have fun – If they are not getting anything out of the game of they feel they are being victimised then they are not going to come back so I think it’s going to have a negative effect.

“Ultimately I want the kids to enjoy their football, more than anything, and so of the silent weekend helps achieve that I will be realty pleased.”

The Silent Weekend is supported by the Ipswich & Suffolk Youth League, South Suffolk Youth League, Suffolk FA Ways, Norfolk & Suffolk Youth League and Suffolk FA Monday Night Football League.

The Suffolk FA is organising two “4v4 Festivals” over the weekend – a boys’ under 7s tournament in Sudbury and a girls’ competition at Westbourne High School.

Other youth teams playing across the county that weekend will be also urged to take part, with ambassadors visiting games to encourage crowds to remain quiet.

Suffolk FA girls’ and women’s football development officer Paige Shorten, who is co-organising the event with Mr Cornall, said: “Although an unusual scenario for coaches and spectators to find themselves in, we firmly believe the event will have a big impact on giving youth players the best football experience possible.”

Clubs can sign up to the event by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/s/RK6DHXH.

For information email michael.cornall@suffolkfa.com or paige.shorten@suffolkfa.com.

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