SSMFL Interview: ‘Think first, Before you curse’ pilot aims explained

Sports Shots has spoken with Spartan South Midlands League, vice chairman Bill Scholes and Respect and Referees chairman Mike Taylor.

We discussed the Spartan South Midlands League pilot ‘Think first, Before you curse’, which is an attempt for clubs to create a family-friendly environment by kicking Unacceptable Language and Behaviour, both on and off the field, into touch.

The Spartan South Midlands League ‘Think First’ campaign.

Scholes explained:

Every club should always be aiming to be the hub of the community, and not just in football terms. With this comes a responsibility to attract a family-friendly, fun environment. These people are the club’s lifeline.

It was clear from strong viewpoints expressed at both recent Divisional club meetings and recent Match officials’ meetings, that improvements to the campaign could be made, by both the clubs themselves and by the match officials. There are always two sides of a story, but the League feel that the future for a better and much more enjoyable afternoon’s football, helping to eradicate the use of foul language and abuse, would be best served if both match officials and clubs could work together to stamp out this particularly virulent cancer on the game that we all love.

Therefore a letter from the SSMFL Board went out to all club chairmen and match officials explaining the new initiative, objectives and the reasons behind it. The pilot will run from 16th February until 27th April in Division One only, monitoring unacceptable language and behaviour, both on and off the field of play.

Taylor went on to say:

The responsibility for administering the Laws of the Game on the field remains on the shoulders of the match officials, but there is a strong feeling amongst the officials that more could be done “at home” by the clubs to remind their management and players of their responsibility. Remember, the match officials are there to police the match, not to teach players how to behave.

We have produced a new, ‘softer, less wordy’ set of posters, which the officials asked for and these should now be visible at all the grounds. If this is not the case, referees are asked to report accordingly.

We have also reminded referees that they have a golden opportunity on receipt of the team sheets before kick off to remind clubs what is expected and that the bench side Assistant should monitor the technical areas diligently.

I hope that together we can all achieve the goals that we all know would make our match-days far more enjoyable, for everyone hoping to enjoy the game, without having to put up with unacceptable comments, hopefully they will all

‘’Think First, Before They Curse’’……

Scholes added:

Board members have asked to report any incidents of unacceptable language and/or behaviour to the General Secretary. These will then be forwarded on to the Respect, Discipline and Referees committee who decide what action, if any, will be taken.

This could be,

  1. A written warning as to future behaviour, with the proviso that further action may result should the behaviour be repeated.
  2. The chief officers/ management team of the club will be asked to attend a Board panel to explain their club’s behaviour and produce a committed action plan to eradicate any further occurrences.
  3. If no discernible improvement and should further instances occur, a report will be made to the main Board, with the   recommendation that the club be removed from the Constitution at the AGM.

We are asking clubs to highlight this trial, and its potential ramifications, in every home programme that they issue, as well as constantly reminding spectators, players and officials. We also recommend that they pin up the new poster at the entry point /pay box so that all spectators entering the ground are aware of the campaign. Additional laminated posters will be available on request.

The league reserves the right to Name and Shame clubs that are reported for unacceptable language and/or behaviour. This could be through the use of social media and local press, and as we have seen recently, these reports can be picked up by the national press. I’m sure that club officials do not want their club to be portrayed in a detrimental light.

The trial, started on Saturday 16th February, and will encompass all Division One league fixtures and all cup matches that come under the auspices of the League.

The emphasis does and should fall on everyone and Sports Shots hope that management staff, players and supporters all look at the bigger picture and grasp why this trial is being introduced.


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