Respectwatch – Keeping an eye on the FA’s Respect campaign

Here at Proven Quality, we like to think of ourselves as the arbiters of good taste in Football. The Respect campaign in English football is one that elicits much discussion (and hopefully, less concussion). We want to keep our Collina-like eye and Lineker-like ear on the sights and sounds of the game. Post-match interviews, press coverage of the game, as well as on-field demeanour will help us to monitor the success of Respect.

Here’s how state their intentions behind the Respect campaign :

What impact has the programme had?


The Respect programme was launched at the start of the 2008-09 season in response to a range of behavioural problems that were having an impact on the long term sustainability and popularity of football. Its original objectives were:

  • To recruit and retain enough referees for the demands of the game at every level
  • To reduce the number of  assaults on referees
  • To achieve an improvement in on- field player discipline particularly in the area of dissent to referees
  • To manage a step change in youth football as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour from parents and spectators.

Considerable improvement is shown through the range of these statistics that the FA provide:

  • In 2007 there were 22,918 referees in 2012 there are 28,700. The biggest challenge is retaining a group of predominantly young referees in the game. Over 25 per cent (>7,500) are aged 14-19
  • The number of reported referee assaults (all categories) decreased by 16 per cent in 2011-12 and the number of ‘Assaults causing serious bodily harm’ reduced from eleven to six.
  • Of 8,500 Respect reports submitted by referees in 2011-12 the average marks for the behaviour of participants and enjoyment of referees exceed four out of five
  • In the Premier League and Football League the number of dissent cautions has reduced by 17 per cent since 2008
  • Sixty-six dissent cautions in the Premier League and 113 in the Championship in 2011-12
  • There is a dissent caution in less than one in five games in the Premier League and Football League
  • The number of on field misconduct charges and warnings increased in the professional game in 2011-12: a response to guidance issued at the start of the season and greater consistency in reporting by match officials and assessors
  • The total number of dissent cautions in all affiliated football has fallen since 2008 although the number of general cautions has increased
  • The area of grass-roots adult football has proved more difficult to change behaviour but the referee’s experience has improved
  • The environment of youth football has improved. There has been widespread adoption of Codes of Conduct, Touchline Barriers, Pitch side Marshalls, Welfare officers, Respect briefings parents and training for coaches.


Respect what exactly?

These results seem highly promising and, as the FA say, there is much more room for progress. Thinking about how best to achieve these intentions, I advance that the onus is particularly on the Premier League stars i.e players, managers and indeed, fans. The dominant coverage of the Premier League at the expense of the lower leagues means that these role models have an opportunity to acquit themselves more sportingly. It seems to me that until we see much of the ubiquitous anger dissipate, we won’t experience the keenly yet amicably contested version of the game the FA envisions.

Sunderland players surround referee Phil Dowd

Phil Dowd is surrounded by Phil Dowd

I wonder is the sport ready for such a civil revolution.  I imagine the wish for a gentler way of playing football is still mistrusted among the football fraternity. I have heard fans decry the pesky interventions of the man in black, shouting variously, “He went down like a sack of spuds ref!” or “It’s a contact sport ref!”. Does the English game reflect the bulldog pugnaciousness? Can and should it reflect genteel sportsmanship?

So among the questions we will be asking ourselves as the season progresses

  • Are the players showing more respect to each other ?
  • Are managers more supportive of the referee?
  • Are instances of abuse in the stands declining?

Crimewatch UK is our second favourite program and we look to it as our role model. As such, Respectwatch will be a series in which we highlight the misdemeanours and will endeavour to help police lock up the worst offenders.

Ciaran writes interesting articles about football. He is a distant relation of John Toshack and has his finger very much on the pulse and intimate parts of the game. He hopes the fame and fortune generated by this blog will help him. Please help. Just 2 pounds a month, 2 pounds a month is what his boss pays him.
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