In the open message to the SMJFL Community dated 3 April 2014, the league announced the establishment of a Match Day Behaviour Working Party comprising representatives from a broad cross- section of clubs to work with the league in the development of strategies designed to address inappropriate behaviour from parents and supporters.
In this letter we report on issues that have arisen in relation to the behaviour of spectators and officials in the season to date.
On a positive note, the reaction of the community to the introduction of zones in the junior age groups and the engagement of parents/volunteer umpires in those age groups has been overwhelmingly favourable.
Players, spectators and the volunteer umpires have all expressed enormous satisfaction with these changes. An associated benefit of the introduction of volunteer parent based umpires at junior levels is to free up umpires to officiate in a variety of roles at the higher age group levels. Despite various logistical challenges, umpire scheduling appointments are up on previous years and the retention rates of umpires from last year, is much improved. These matters in turn have led to what is generally regarded as a very high standard of umpiring performance.
On a disappointing note, there continues to be an unacceptable number of issues and complaints arising from spectator and official behaviour. This year, the league is maintaining a data base of incidents involving players, officials and spectators. To the end of round 4, the data base records 47 incidents involving players/officials/spectators. This number includes players issued with “yellow cards” which involve no further action post game day.
Of the 47 incidents, 17 have involved the behaviour of spectators or officials.
These incidents have prompted a range of responses, from letters sent by the SMJFL to the Club and/or the officials concerned requesting an explanation, to Tribunal appearances.
One incident involving unacceptable spectator and/or official behaviour is one incident too many. The SMJFL will continue to adopt a zero tolerance strategy to such behaviour. This approach is fully supported by the Match Day Behaviour Working Party.
It is critical that clubs and each individual parent/spectator “buy into” and actively support this approach.
If any person observes offensive or inappropriate behaviour towards players and umpires or other club officials and spectators, please be bold enough to either remind the person to think about their actions and stop, or report that behaviour to your relevant team manager or member of the club committee.
We also remind clubs that the SMJFL by-laws provide that each team’s umpire’s escort is responsible for addressing issues involving behaviour of their team’s spectators towards the umpires.
One young player, after participating in a game, where spectators and officials were involved in arguments, put it best: “Can you just let us play footy?”
Finally, please remember:
- the players in our competition are kids;
- our coaches are volunteers;
- the umpires are human;
- we do not play in the big league.
Enjoy the rest of the season.
Roger Teale Tim Coyne
Chairman President East Sandringham Junior FC
South Metro Junior Football League Chair, Match Day Behaviour Working Party