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Just Let Them Play

Posted: 2 November 2022

This week the FA will be holding the first of two ‘Silent Support’ weekends to address a rise in toxic touchline behaviour in football at all levels.

Building on last month’s Play Safe campaign, Club Welfare Officer, Dean Rainford, is asking those attending our games this coming Sunday to back this initiative and give some thought to the things they say whilst watching their young ones play football.

Does that mean watch the game in total silence?  

No, of course not.  This would be a bit strange and not at all what people want at a football match but what we would like to hear is parents and spectators applauding good play from both teams and praising players where praise is due but trying to keep this to a minimum.  We’d also like to see Team Managers and Coaches keeping any instructions given during a game to an absolute minimum.  

Have a look at this video to see why we think this is important.

The FA’s aim is simple – to raise awareness of the need to create the best possible environment in which children can enjoy playing football with more freedom, less pressure and without an over-emphasis on winning at all costs.

So, the objective is to:

  • create a healthy and positive environment where players and officials can make mistakes without criticism;
  • allow players to make their own decisions without interference from others;
  • persuade those watching the game to concentrate on the positive

If we can do this, everyone involved in the game will benefit because: 

  • players will be better able to concentrate on their game without unnecessary and unhelpful distractions;
  • players will have a better opportunity to find their own voice, improve their own decision-making and develop their own game;
  • Coaches and Team Managers will be able to better assess the communication skills of their players;
  • Match Officials will be able to enjoy the important role they play and officiate without fear of criticism, abuse, or intimidation.

The impact of what we see on our televisions week in and week out should not be underestimated and many believe that aggressive, inappropriate, and often abusive behaviour at the highest level produces copycat behaviour that is threatening our game at a grass-roots level and is a very real safeguarding concern. 

Dean is keen to point out that in his experience most parents are generally well behaved but says “things can be very quickly spoilt by the behaviour of just one or two adults, so we do sometimes need to be reminded that the players and match officials are our priority, and we must make sure we always follow our Codes of Conduct.

On Sunday we’d like to see what effect a change in the behaviour of those watching the game will have on those participating in it.

There are sometimes too many unwanted voices being heard from the touchline, too many opinions being shared out loud and just too many distractions for the players all round.  It’s the behaviour of the ‘grown-ups’ that can sometimes have an unintended and negative effect on the game and we’d like to change that if we can.”

To understand the impact of this initiative, and to make improvements for the future, the FA will be inviting feedback and we hope our members will be able to share their thoughts about how this simple change in behaviour affected the game.

Club Secretary, Lindsay Hawkins, is keen to remind members that we have all agreed to abide by our Codes of Conduct when joining the Club and asks everyone to give just five minutes of their time this week to familiarise themselves with the relevant code and ensure they follow it on match day. 

We want all our teams to be the best they can be and that involves fostering a culture of discipline and doing the right thing on and off the field.

Let’s do this and see what we can learn.

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