Ugly sideline scenes a real threat to rugby

IT has long been a scourge of football at a grassroots level.

Screaming parents and coaches venting their fury at match officials from the touchline - bringing an unsavoury feel to the (not-so) beautiful game.

Now it appears this ugly monster has invaded rugby union - and shows no sign of disappearing any time soon.

It has been described as one of the biggest problems facing rugby in the Eastern Counties as:

* A local Under-10s coach receives a 24-week suspension from all rugby-related matters


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* One club issues a stark warning to parents and coaches after a “serious case of appalling touchline behaviour”

* A third of all disciplinary matters dealt with by Eastern Counties Rugby Union is concerning mini, midi and youth rugby.

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The stark nature of the problem, which has heightened over the last five years, was highlighted by Huw Davies, chairman of the Eastern Counties Discipline Committee, who issued words of warning via the ECRU’s website.

In a statement posted on the site, Davies revealed that one coach at under-10s level has been suspended for a 24-week duration, another, at Under-13s, sanctioned for 18 weeks. Both were for “inappropriate behaviour and language, together with referee abuse”.

Speaking to Love Rugby, Davies said: “We have Under-10s matches where coaches and spectators are getting heated and abusing the referee – this at Under-10 level! It baffles me how or why it happens.

“At this stage the children should be learning the basic tenets of the game and winning should be unimportant at these development age-group games.

“Many youngsters have moved away from football with rugby becoming extremely popular in recent years. But I believe some of the problems are caused by some parents behaving as if they were football parents.

“We have coaches who are helping out but have never played rugby in their lives. There is also a problem with egos among some coaches, but only some.”

Davies believes a higher standard of refereeing could address, or at least handle, some of the problems and advocated every club volunteering people to take courses.

He added: “It is a hugely serious issue. Unless poor on and off field discipline is not addressed it could affect the strength of the game in future years. Rugby has always been seen as an extremely disciplined and social sport and in Eastern Counties we are determined not to allow standards to fall.”

And clubs themselves are taking a tough stance in a bid to stamp out the problem.

A statement in Colchester’s latest newsletter said: “There has recently been a serious case of appalling touchline behaviour with a coach receiving a lengthy suspension.

“It is therefore appropriate that we ask all parents and coaches to reacquaint themselves with the club’s discipline protocols for coaches and parents.”

It is not clear whether the two statements from Colchester and the Eastern Counties are related.

* What do you think? Is there a discipline problem on the touchlines of youth rugby? Have you seen any instances first-hand? If so, what can be done to arrest this alarming issue? Let me know your thoughts, or stories, at dave.gooderham@archant.co.uk.

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