FOOTBALL officials and players should mark June 25 down on their calendars as a day to make a statement.
On that day, football fields around the state will fall silent as part of “Silent Saturday” – a joint initiative from NNSW Football and Football Mid North Coast.
FMNC general manager Bruce Potter said the aim for the day was for people to keep quiet, let the kids play and the referees referee.
“It makes it a better environment for the officials and the junior players in particular not to have all the unofficial coaches on the side giving their five cents worth,” he said.
It comes on the back of the “Silence on the Sidelines” campaign which was started in Sydney two weeks ago where no talking, abusive language or abuse of any kind was tolerated.
Potter said the feedback around the football community from that campaign had been positive, so they wanted to try it out on a more local scale.
“It’s been addressed everywhere throughout the region and the clubs have jumped on the campaign so we’re expecting a good result,” he said.
There hasn’t been any on-field incidents to force FMNC’s hand and Potter saw it as an opportunity for them to get on the front foot and lead the way.
“FMNC referees last week implemented a zero tolerance for foul or abusive language on the field and will continue to do so,” he said.
“It hasn’t been brought about by any isolated incidents, it’s just a matter of working continuously to keep the game as a good, safe place for families and kids to come and watch games. That’s really important to us.”
Silent Saturday will provide another chance to try and change the perception in the community that abuse on the football field, whether that is from a player or spectator, is OK.
“We don’t want to see our game go down that path and it’s important to us that we’ve got good behaviour; we want to keep it that way,” Potter said.
“Abuse towards referees is a serious issue and there is a penalty for players who indulge in that. The general problem for normal player abuse and sometimes banter where it gets a little too aggressive or obnoxious we want to take down a notch.”
The bans in place for any kind of abuse are quite significant and are upheld throughout Australia.
“Depending on the severity of what was said or done a suspension can be from two weeks up to 12 months,” Potter said.
“The players aren’t stupid; they’re quick learners. Once the referees crack down for a couple of weeks this won’t be an issue because people will know that there’s a penalty.
June 25 is a chance for the football community to lead the way and make a statement that any form of abuse at any sporting ground is unacceptable.
“We’ve got over 6000 players and the majority are kids or young people,” Potter said.
“It’s a good family environment, we’ve just got to make sure that continues. We want people wanting to come to the games and you do that by providing a good quality sport with a good environment.”