Northumberland FA figures show grassroots football misconduct is rising, particularly with youth football clubs

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Misconduct in grassroots football is on the rise, new Northumberland FA figures have revealed.

Mid-season statistics show 2022/23 is on track to surpass 2021/22 for the number of misconduct charges upheld by the Northumberland FA Discipline Commission.

And 65% of charges so far this season were linked to youth football, up from 55% last season.

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Northumberland FA head of business development Helen Beales said: “That is just not acceptable at all, even though it's a minority. We do not want to see that trend going up.

This season is on track to have more misconduct charges filed than the previous season.This season is on track to have more misconduct charges filed than the previous season.
This season is on track to have more misconduct charges filed than the previous season.

“Grassroots football is a learning experience. The players are learning how to play and the referees are learning how to referee.

“Everybody responds better to positive encouragement. Negative behaviour and abuse will not be tolerated by ourselves, and we will take all steps within our powers if we hear of any of that behaviour to tackle that.”

So far this season there have been 95 misconduct charges heard, with 93 upheld, including incidents that resulted in a match abandonment. 168 charges were heard in 2021/22.

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15% of the 2022/23 charges so far have involved abusive language aggravated by a protected characteristic.

Abuse towards referees accounts for 20% of this season’s charges, including incidents of abusive language, threatening behaviour, and physical contact.

Cramlington United FC coach and committee member Kevin Hastings said he had seen referees endure abuse first hand, even at a friendly match, and suggested introducing awareness courses for coaches.

He said: “Older referees that want to retire are being forced to stay in the game because openings are not getting back-filled with younger ones.

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“If we do not support them from the sidelines, you won’t have officials.

“If it continues, in five years time you will not have as many leagues.”

A new scheme implemented in September 2022 allows match officials to submit ‘respect marks’ for teams, coaches, and spectators, with prizes for the highest scoring clubs.

449 matches have been scored so far with 89% of teams scoring between 8 and 10 and 3.4% scoring 5 or less.

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The data shows that when coaches score 5 or less the average player score is only 5.2, and when spectators score 5 or less the average player score drops even further to 4.6, indicating the influence of the sidelines on player behaviour.