A couple of years ago, due to abusive behavior by parents at youth (American) football games, a local recreation department erected chain link fences to keep the parents away from the players, coaches, and officials. Clearly the move was meant to get the parents attention to how bad things were getting, and I hope it was only temporary. At the time I hoped it was a remedy that wouldn’t be needed elsewhere. ÂTurns out it was:
Keith Harris, chairman of the Wigan Youth League, came up with the idea of roping off one side of a pÂitch to keep parents away from their offspring and the officials. “I was chatting to a colleague about parents and said, as a joke, that we should fence them all in,” Harris said. “He said it was a good idea. We had ten to 15 games a season being abandoned because of adults being abusive, so we had to do something.”?
It seems to have worked. In the first season of using plastic fencing, two matches were abandoned because of touchline behaviour; in the second, two more games failed to be completed, but because of players not supporters; and, this season, one game has been abandoned so far, but, again, not because of parents.
Michael McCourt, a Wigan Youth League referee, calls the fencing “brilliant, superb. We have a lot of young referees and it protects them,”? he said.
Wow. All soccer leagues deal with ‘parents behaving badly’, but I can’t imagine having it get so bad across the board that you’d abandon so many matches. Sure, American parents have run onto soccer pitches to assault referees, but I would think having so many incidents in a single league is abnormal. But apparently they were pretty severe given the distance the leagues put between the parents and the pitch:
Other leagues have followed suit and, this season, the Stourbridge Youth League decided that all clubs must erect plastic posts with ropes up to six metres away from the touchline. Coaches must stand on the opposite touchline and no one is allowed to stand behind the goals.
That’s a heck of a distance! You have to wonder if putting the parents so far away defeats the purpose since they’re likely to just scream louder! And imagine what the kids must be thinking, seeing their parents penned in at a distance from their games. But clearly the parents brought it upon themselves.
So the next time you’re getting caught up in your child’s game and letting the referee know how badly they are doing, imagine what it would be like to be fenced in 18 feet/6 meters from the field trying to cheer on your kids. Then imagine trying to explain to your kids why you have to watch their match from behind a fence.
HatTip to The Ref.