North Coast Football will this weekend tackle the problems caused by disrespectful patrons on sidelines.
North Coast Football will this weekend tackle the problems caused by disrespectful patrons on sidelines. Iain Curry

NNSW Football leads campaign to sin bin sporting disrespect

EVERYBODY has an ugly sporting story.

From the parents on the sideline who gang up on the junior with the whistle helping little Johnny or Mary have fun with kids their age, to the so-called grown-ups who believe paying admission at the gate entitles them to scream abuse at match officials.

Northern NSW Football has decided to pay tribute to the whistleblowers and flag carriers by calling this weekend the Referee Recognition Weekend.

The scheme incorporates the Thanks Ref Weekend and Silent Saturday initiatives that have been introduced to encourage more tolerance of match officials just doing their best.

Now in its fourth year, the weekend aims to publicly recognise the efforts referees and match officials go to in ensuring players can enjoy a free flowing game, in a fun and safe environment.

Northern NSW has almost 1200 referees and instructing referees facilitating approximately 40,000 matches each season.

Community football manager Peter Haynes recognises that officiating football matches at any level can be a difficult, stressful, intimidating and often thankless job.

"Unfortunately, it is a lack of respect shown to referees and the somewhat abusive behaviour of a small group of players, supporters and coaches that is the contributing factor for referees deciding not to continue in the sport," he said.

"It is hoped that initiatives like these, that highlight the importance of referees in delivering our game week in and week out across the season can assist in combating this serious issue."

Fortunately, the North Coast Football zone covering Maclean to Nambucca Heads has been free of major incidents involving referee abuse in recent years.

Mid North Coast Rugby and AFL North Coast also have escaped the worst but despite Group 2 introducing the Tough Love In Rugby League policy in 2012, one player has since received a life ban while another was outed for 20 years after incidents involving referees.

This season, one player was suspended for the remainder of the year for threatening to kill a referee with the sentence upheld on appeal.

Whatever the code, Haynes believes players, referees and spectators will ultimately benefit from a game where the players and match officials are left to do what they do best - play.

"It's difficult to eliminate all the passion and vocal support during matches," he said.

"However, we hope that through creating awareness of the campaign through member zones and their respective clubs, parents and coaches will do their best to refrain from coaching and yelling from the sideline and simply sit back and let them play."

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