Around Rovers

September 16, 2008

Out of Respect

It certainly was a very early start for those of us who chose to travel to East Anglia for the televised game against Peterborough United last Saturday. Journeys from various parts were not helped by the very heavy downpours of rain which fell across the West and Midlands in the 48 hours or so before the game.

It’s become a bit of a custom in the boardroom these days to grab hold of a match day programme as soon as possible on arrival to see who the referee for the game is going to be. With the Pirate it is quite easy as we know; straight to the back cover. With others it can be a bit of a search but most times the information can be found inside on the last page or two. So it was with “londonroad”. Quite a different title for a programme it has to be said.

Nick Higgs and I looked for the name almost simultaneously. Mr A D’urso, the very man. We had our thoughts, much the same I suspect and much the same as our loyal band of our supporters who had also travelled. We looked at each other but out of respect we said very little if anything at all. We had our thoughts again early in the second half but again we said little; after all, in football you win some and you loose some. It is the nature of it.

On Sunday morning I bought my copy of “nonleague today”. I enjoy the paper for the complete results and league table coverage that it provides. You do not find such a coverage in the national newspapers or even electronically. The front page headline was very prominent in the September 7th issue. In bold upper case “IS THIS RESPECT” was the question, you may have read it. The article by Tom Youngs reported the incident where a teen age referee had fallen victim of an attack whereby he had been allegedly punched in the face and kicked in the head for trying to do his job. His alleged attacker now faces criminal charges and with it a lifelong ban from football.

Former Chairman Ron Craig, now on the back benches as he puts it, is the member of our board who reports to us on all matters pertaining to the FA and The Football League. Ron is a man of many years experience and he knows the organisations inside out. He probably knows more about them than they do about themselves. At our regular monthly meeting held on September 1st, Ron included in his report the details of the FA “Respect” Programme as given in a circular to all member clubs from the League.

You may have seen some reference in the media to the programme which was launched by the FA in pre season. This initiative seeks to improve behaviour on and off the pitch and in particular to demonstrate a commitment towards greater respect for match officials. It is being supported by all agencies of the game including the Professional Footballers Association and the League Managers Association. At our meeting the Bristol Rovers board were pleased to join with all other clubs in giving the initiative our unqualified support.

As part of the “Respect” programme, the league has agreed to fall in line with the pre match fair play handshake already used at International level and at European club competitions and in the Premier League. The FA are quite right in our view, especially as we see many times on our televisions, Premier League players going well over the top by arguing and shouting at match officials about a good number of decisions made. Wrong messages are sent out to youngsters in particular who are watching and playing the game at school and at junior club levels. The FA is running an advertising campaign at this time which says no respect, no referee, no game. An FA spokesman has said as recently as last week, “Anyone who plays football will tell you it is a better game with a referee, and that is why they deserve respect”.

One of most significant aspect of the Respect Programme will be to encourage referees to work with team captains to a greater extent in order to help manage behaviour on the field. A “stepped” approach has been outlined including where appropriate the intervention of the team captain. The utilisation of captains and the need for improved behaviour in the technical areas will be underpinned at the pre match exchange of team sheets.

The feeling is that the captain can play an additional preventative and supportive role in the referee’s management of the game. The ulterior motive here is to reduce the potential for confrontation and dissent. To this end Stuart Campbell has the total support of the board and staff here at Bristol Rovers and we have the utmost confidence in him.





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