Referees are refusing to supervise children’s football games because of the threat of abuse and intimidation from parents, Sunday league veterans have revealed.
Ted Gore, referee secretary for the Hackney & Leyton Sunday Football League, said: “Trouble tends to come with the kids’ games – that’s why I won’t referee them myself. When some bloke whacks someone else, more often than not it’s a parent getting worked up.”
His comments come after the FA’s launch of an initiative fronted by Hackney-born actor Ray Winstone to try and improve parental behaviour at matches.
The programme, called the Respect Parent Guide, was created after the Football Association’s research showed 7,000 young footballers across the country have stopped playing in the last two years because of pressure from the sidelines.
Mr Winstone said: “I can remember the enjoyment I got from playing football on Hackney Marshes as an 11-year-old kid. But I can also still remember hearing dads, who thought they knew more about soccer than anyone else, screaming and shouting from the touchlines.
“It must be a right headache to stand next to these mugs every week who are arguing over kids’ football. It’s tough on the referee and difficult for the other parents who are trying to enjoy the game.”
Johnny Walker, chairman of the Hackney & Leyton Sunday Football League, said that parents were just mimicking top flight managers by throwing tantrums at referees.
Mr Walker said: “There is always a problem when you get people on the touchline who think they’re Alex Ferguson. There are the usual spats, but we give them short shrift.”
He added: “I don’t think the FA realise how much pressure we’re under. The recent Man United vs Fulham game [which saw Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney sent off] is the typical example. Of course Premiership misbehaviour filters down, and then we’re left to pick up the pieces.”
An FA spokesman disagreed and said the campaign showed it was dedicated to tackling the problem head-on.
He said: “Our new campaign has been prompted by the grass roots to try and improve parental behaviour on the touchline. I guess sometimes bad behaviour might filter down from the Premiership, but the FA is trying to make football a fun and enjoyable experience for all children.”