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LONDON - The English Football Association (FA) will launch a campaign aimed at getting players to be more respectful of referees.
The move follows growing alarm at the level of abuse that is being directed at officials, which in turn results in fewer people being prepared to put up with the behaviour.
FA chief executive Brian Barwick acknowledges the issue affects the highest levels of the game as much as the lowest and he believes methods introduced at grassroots can have a huge impact.
The three main components of the pilot scheme to be launched in nine regions from next January are: l Only the team captain will be allowed to speak with the referee;
l Roped-off areas will be introduced at junior matches so 'overindulgent or abusive' parents cannot direct their bile at the referee; and
l All players and club officials will be forced to sign a memorandum of understanding noting the standards of behaviour that will be expected.
"These things are done better through discussion rather than a big stick but we want to stop the situation getting out of hand," said Barwick.
"There is a lot of emotion and passion in the game but you only have to look at a sport like rugby to see there seems to be a certain level of respect for the officials.
"That sets a marker down for our game because the treatment of referees is a really serious issue and something we have to deal with."
Barwick's stance has been backed by England national team coach Steve McClaren, who was once forced to resign as president of a local club because of the behaviour of parents.
"If you do not have discipline you are not in control, if you are not in control it can cost you the game," he said. - Sapa-AFP