Football occupies a large position in the psyche of this country and The Football Association is certainly concerned about the image of the game and the importance of people within football acting responsibly.
The FA consistently strives to raise standards in football and at the first ever FA Roadshow in October 2007, The FA’s Chief Executive, Brian Barwick revealed one of his own personal priorities is to make sure that all players’ behaviour towards match officials is improved right from the grassroots level to the top flight, along with spectator and parent behaviour on the sidelines of youth matches.
In the modern TV age, players’ language and behaviour are now subject to more scrutiny and comment than ever before. This behaviour is copied on pitches and parks up and down the country every week, especially by impressionable young players. The FA understands that players must be aware of their responsibilities as role-models, and we are working to ensure that they realise this. It is also important to maintain a sense of perspective and recognise that football is full of passion and emotion; that is why referees have been instructed to distinguish between spontaneous reactions and direct confrontations.
All clubs in the highest three levels of the game (down to the Football Conference) are reminded of their responsibilities by The FA Disciplinary Committee.
Under the Laws of the Game a referee already has the power to dismiss a player for using offensive or insulting or abusive language or gestures.
At grassroots level this power is frequently used and players will often receive a 35-day suspension and requisite fine. In the professional game there is a perception that referees are reluctant to act or are more lenient, and again this is something The FA has acknowledged and intends to tackle.
It is worth making the point that the media focuses largely on footballers’ bad behaviour, and often ignores the vast amount of good work that footballers also engage in, and acting therefore as positive role models.
The FA uses the game and its professionals as a vehicle to inspire children and promote a number of positive issues such as education, social inclusion, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
The FA, both through its own work and that of the Football Foundation, has a number of programmes in place that utilise the power of football, and the profile of professional players themselves, to disseminate such messages to youngsters around the country; it is unfair to single out footballers and football as the sole or even main cause of anti-social or disrespectful behaviour by young people.
While football’s profile and reach make it an easy scapegoat, there is a great deal of work being done by The FA and the wider football family to harness the profile of footballers, and the power of football more generally, to effect beneficial social and policy change in a range of areas.
This work includes projects such as:
Positive Futures: This is a nationwide scheme funded largely by the football industry (and promoted by high-profile football stars), which gets vulnerable young people involved in sport and on track to a brighter future.
Alltogethernow: In February 2006 David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Sven-Goran Eriksson launched Alltogethernow 2006, a campaign by England fans and The FA to promote fan behaviour at the World Cup in Germany and respect for the host country.
Reading Stars: A first team player from every Premier League Club is nominated as a Reading Champion. By using footballers such as Sol Campbell and David James as positive role models, the scheme is reaching out to those who may not have considered reading or joining a public library before.
Playing for Success: Playing for Success is an initiative established by the Department for Education and Skills in 1997 in partnership with The FA, the Premier League, the Football League, individual clubs and Local Education Authorities (LEAs). Through Playing for Success, the department is establishing out of school hours study support centres within top football clubs and at other sports club grounds and venues.