This page was originally published to explain the Pilot for the 2016-17 season. Following the success of the Pilot the FA has approved the processes for the 2017-18 season so the page has been updated to show that this is no longer a pilot. However topics that explain why decisions were originally taken still refer to the Pilot.

To better reflect their role the original term “Pitch Marshal” has been changed to “Respect Marshal”. 

SYL Match Day Respect– Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Will the League have enough resources to put this into action, its no good for all the clubs putting in the work and then the league not being able to implement?

A really good point. One key aspect is the systems improvement in Prawn Sandwich in which the referees and Respect Marshalls report respect breaches. This data goes to a database that will enable us to identify each week breaches and send out instant standard reports for Teams to take action, effectively systems automation will reduce the amount of human labour involved.

We believe that one additional person to the current committee along with the support of the Chairman and General Secretary will be sufficient resources along with the enhanced systems.

  1. Its really important to clubs to know that action is being taken and the Match Day Respect Processes are working, how would you propose that you can get this message out to clubs on a weekly / fortnightly basis, so that the 800+ teams know that action is being taken?

Another great question, within the league we have been frustrated by the reporting systems and attitude to publishing info or not. In this case we will publish on the league web site, at least a fortnightly, a high level view that might look like the following:-

  • Respect Breaches Reported – 6
  • Respect Notices Issued to Clubs – 6
  • Action Taken by Club – 5
  • No Action Taken by Club – 1
  • Teams Fixtures with held – 1
  1. Not Standing behind Opposition Linesmen. Our Club has a policy for standing spectators on opposite sides of the pitch from managers, how will this work if we have limited space?

One of the primary conflict points is when Linesmen become abused and questioned. The Match Day Respect Processes are a test of many things to reduce conflict. This may mean that we break current practices. We are asking clubs to do everything they can to position parents away from standing directly behind opposition linesmen. If parents have to move at half time then that’s all part of the pilot, we must do everything we can to remove the abuse that is treated as the norm, some aspects will be a little inconvenient.

  1. All the time the professional footballers abuse the referee and get away with it, what chance do we have of stopping this at grassroots, the children see it as acceptable?

Firstly we have to remember that these Match Day Respect Processes are directed at the adults on the touchline, its not primarily aimed at on field issues with players. There is currently a good enough process for referees to deal with on pitch dissent or foul/abusive/offensive language towards players. In fact in children’s football it is very rare for children to swear at referees.

The league already has evidence from the fairplay marks that if a set of children marks indicates bad language then invariably either the spectators or manager’s marks are similar to the children, i.e the Children are using the manager and spectators as role models – Not the professionals they see on the TV.

We in grassroots football cannot affect the professional game, we should not use this as an excuse not to raise our own standards on the touchline and set the examples to the children.

In addition you should have seen a clamp down by the professional came on dissent for season 2016/17, already a number of players have been cautioned for this.

  1. Respect Marshalls whats the purpose?

The primary role of the Respect Marshall is a liaison point for the referee. This is to help give referees, especially the young referees people to help manage situations and do some minor reporting. If a referee feels that he has been shown too much disrespect then the Respect Marshalls will be informed. They in turn can ask their own supporters to calm down.

Both Home and Away teams will provide a Respect Marshall at each game, hence we believe that this means that zero conflict will be met by Respect Marshalls as they will only deal with their own spectators, Mangers and the referee.

To answer another enquiry, the Respect Marshalls will not be used to stand behind opposition linesmen to monitor them, this is not their purpose and we will then get no volunteers.

  1. If I volunteer to be a Respect Marshall do I have to wear a High Vis Jacket?

The idea to make Respect Marshalls visible is to enable the referee to see them quickly, a High Vis Jacket / Bib in a crowd will help this. As the Match Day Respect Processes develop we can see if we have other options.

  1. Its going to be impossible to get volunteers to carry out Respect Marshall duties?

The Respect Marshall will only deal with their own supporters and parents, Of course there will be co-operation Respect Marshall, but there will be no need for confrontation with opposition spectators. If there is this will be reported and dealt with in the firmest possible way.

We understand that some clubs / teams will see this as a major problem, but we feel that every child that plays football needs to have a safe environment to play in, and all volunteers should not be subject to abuse. We believe that with some explanation then we hope that people realise that its for the good of the game and their child.

  1. Why have you made Respect Marshalls mandatory at U11 – U15 and not other age groups?

Several reasons for this position, firstly we know from experience, that it is at these age groups that the level of poor behaviour from the touchline is at its worse. At these age groups teams get linesmen, and they move to competitive football, winning matters more! Another reason is that it is at these ages the younger referees will be operating. Older age groups have fewer parents at games and hence volunteers will be thinner on the ground.

With younger age groups we felt that the smaller squad sizes might limit volunteers as well, however I am very pleased with the feedback to date in that many clubs are going to make them compulsory at the younger age groups in their clubs already.

We have compelled this so that we can really judge how effective these Match Day Respect Processes will be, if it was voluntary then we know that some clubs may not bother, consequently the Match Day Respect Processes then would be very inconsistent in their outcomes. 

  1. What happens if there is no Respect Marshall at a game for whatever reason?

In these circumstances the manager will be responsible to act as a Respect Marshall, managers are effectively responsible for the behaviour of their teams supporters anyway. But of course they will need to find the time to hold the briefing sessions with referee both pre and post match, they will also need to submit the reports as well as their Result Card. 

Clubs / Teams not embracing the Match Day Respect Processes and not trying to work with the league will be dealt with at Management Executive levels.

  1. How do we know what a Respect threshold level is?

Every referee has a different tolerance level for touchline questioning / disrespect, however the safe option is not to question any referee, especially the young referees. The codes of conduct are very explicit in stating what you should and shouldn’t do.

  1. Whats the difference between banter and disrespect.

The word banter comes up time and time again, let us be very clear here, whats banter between 25 year olds in a football changing room is very different to the same language being directed at a 15 year old referee by a 30 year old adult.

The bottom line is do not let your emotions run away so that you constantly question a referees decision making, hurl abuse at a referee or linesman and then hide behind the word banter. In this case it would be regarded as disrespect and probably misconduct and enter into the world of safeguarding children. Do not try to manipulate referees by questioning and showing disrespect, its not banter its cheating and abuse.

  1. What happens if we are reported for a Respect Breach by the referee?

On receiving the report, the league will inform the club that they need to investigate the reported breach, which is not appealable. They then have a range of educational actions and sanctions they can take with people. These range from Verbal warnings and compelling people to carry out online respect course, through writing letters of apology to U18 referee parents and on to expulsion from a club.

The League will monitor the educational path and if nothing happens or receives no feedback from a club then we are likely to withhold fixtures for a team, as we will consider its unsafe for that team to play.

  1. Whilst we accept that the Respect Breaches will not be able to be appealed, there is a chance that a few referees may use this process too much, maybe having a bad day, etc,etc – how is the league going to deal with this?

With the enhanced system & data reporting in prawn sandwich, the league will easily be able to see any patterns, such as a referee who is handing out more respect breaches than others. In addition Respect Marshalls can report issues and if both of them on one day suggest that the referee was a bit too harsh then we can look at that, however we are unlikely to alter the Disrespect Breach on that day.

With this data we can then investigate the issue and take action as we see fit. I am certain that as part of the Match Day Respect Processes we will get one or two grey area’s and possible mistakes, we have already learnt from the Pilot in 2016-17.

  1. The League should appoint independent referees to every game to reduce the level of bias from home appointed referees which would then stop the disrespect from the touchlines.

We could write a book on this subject, but lets highlight a few issues to how we can work towards this situation where we could allocate more referees.

  1. We do not have enough referees in the game, they get abused and leave, hence the league does not have enough qualified referees to allocate.
  2. Our referee appointment process relies on all the clubs giving venues and times of kick offs to the referees secretary by the Monday before the game, many teams don’t and then we have problems.
  3. Some referees are very poor at giving us their availability – we intend to monitor this next season and remove them if they are consistently poor at admin.
  4. With the above we are then left with clubs to find their own referees and volunteers, that inevitably leads to the opposition team for some reason seeing that this is bias, its not it’s a method to find a volunteer to referee or no game.
  5. People with “boundless wisdom and opinions” from the touchline have rarely refereed or run a line themselves and do not understand how difficult the role’s are. One persons interpretation of a foul is very different to another person’s. This is not a bias its an opinion, and those experts from the touchline just need to keep their opinions to themselves and keep it zipped. Thank goodness we have people who will volunteer to give the kids a game.
  6. Bottom line don’t make the refs and linesman’s life difficult, then perhaps more will stay in the game and we can then allocate everyone a ref.
  1. When you mention the improved reporting, what actually will the referee report.

The referee has always been able to report to the league, on an old reporting system, the same fairplay marks that team mark each other with, however the system had no database, it was an email system and wasn’t fit for purpose.

With the new Prawn Sandwich report, the referees will report the fairplay marks for both teams, mark both linesman, report if a respect breach was issued and inform the league if a Respect Marshall was present and their name.

With all of the above in a database our reporting will be hugely enhanced and identification of data patterns and issues will be so much easier to identify.

  1. Why can’t we vote for just some parts of the Pilot?

The purpose of the Pilot is to join together a number of processes that already exist and plug the gap with one or two new pieces. If we only vote for one or two pieces then the Pilot will not work end to end as it will not be joined up.

The whole idea is to give a connected process from deploying signage, getting across that  the Codes of Conduct mean something, for referees to report these breaches to Respect Marshalls who can give referees support, and then for the league to receive these reports from referees, enabling clubs to be given information so that they can take action, with the league monitoring and encouraging the process from start to finish.

By not voting for all aspects of the pilot then it will fail.

  1. Isnt this a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

For those of you who were at the Pilot meeting, I would just refer you back to the two young referees Jack and Reece, along with the club linesman Martin, who had the courage to inform everyone of their experiences of personal hateful abuse, along with the level of persistent questioning and cheating employed by managers and supporters to gain an advantage over young referees, volunteer linesman and volunteer referees.

Just one piece of this abuse is not needed or warranted, so as I said in my previous press coverage unless we eradicate this, it will lead one day to someone being assaulted and killed, please don’t forget this point. Maybe a sledgehammer, but unfortunately needed to eradicate the few that think this is ok.

  1. What is the League expecting from the Pilot?

Our hope is that we can make great strides towards eradicating disrespect and abuse shown towards volunteers with it becoming socially unacceptable. I hope that with all the publicity within the league, along with expanded signage and various media commentary, that this in itself, will be enough for people to stop this nonsense.

If this level of abuse stops then its our belief that the serious misconduct will reduce significantly. We hope and believe that everyone wants to stop this rubbish, its all about raising our standards and removing those that do not subscribe to this.

FA Respect awards given to the Surrey youth league