Managing Poor Behaviour
The majority of people attending matches participate in a respectful manner, creating an enjoyable and safe environment. Unfortunately sometimes a minority don’t demonstrate responsible and acceptable behaviour.
Common Issues for Players, Parents and Clubs
Photography & Videoing in Football
In Australia, generally speaking, there is no law restricting photography of people (including children) in public spaces as long as the images are not:
- being used for voyeurism or made for the purpose of observing and visually recording a person’s genital or anal region
- protected by a court order (eg. child custody or witness protection)
- being for commercial purposes (person’s likeness is used to endorse or entice people to buy a product).
Insufficient Game Time
Insufficient game time is not a child protection issue. It is a decision for the coach of a team to determine how much game time players receive. Some clubs have policies relating to amateur football game time and this can be clarified by contacting your club to find out if they have a game time policy.
Football is a team sport and time on the bench is part of playing a team sport and being in a football team. The strategies used by coaches are many and varied in their efforts to try and provide players with fair game time, but equal time is not always possible particularly where the games are closely contested and where player fitness, endurance, ability and team cohesion are factors in player selection, rotation and positioning.
Non-selection in team or squad
Non-selection is not a child protection issue. The selection of players and the suitability of players for a team is a decision for selectors. Players are generally selected based on skill, strength, stamina, physique, fitness, commitment, positive attitude and a willingness and ability to learn and improve. A good behaviour record and compliance with the Codes of conduct, Laws of the Game and all relevant club, FNSW and FFA policies, both on and off the field, is also important.
Our team is not winning – My child is not scoring goals
It is interesting to note that a study on children’s sport found that the top 3 reasons children play amateur sport were: To make friends; To have fun; and To play the game.
Winning is not always a priority for children and just playing with their friends, having fun and kicking the ball is often what they base their good experience on. Parents should support their children and encourage good sportsmanship no matter their priorities or outcome of the game – win, lose or draw, the experience should always be a positive one.
Sport is great for children’s fitness and well-being and is often the only outlet a child has from the stress of school and the pressures of life in general, so it is important they are allowed to enjoy their football and have a good experience.
My child is not being played in the position they prefer
The position that a child plays in or is allocated to is a decision for the coach of the team. Although a child may play in a certain position when they join the club or trial for a club, there is no guarantee that this is the position the child will play in at the club. While clubs and coaches like to try and keep everyone happy, it is not always possible to play children where they want or prefer to play at any level.
Failure to release a player from a contract
This is not a child protection issue and is a matter for resolution between the club and the player involved.
Behaviour of the coach
Inappropriate behaviour in football is unacceptable and clubs and associations are responsible for taking appropriate action where they consider the behaviour of their team officials to be in breach of the Coaches Code of Conduct or relevant policies. Clubs are responsible for managing all complaints in relation to their coaches and any appropriate disciplinary action that may arise in relation to their employees and volunteers. Local associations also have a level of jurisdiction over coaches and team officials which can result in those persons appearing before the association tribunal and penalties applied.
Options which clubs may consider when responding to complaints about or breaches of the Code of Conduct:
- Speaking with the coach about their behaviour
- Monitoring the coach to observe the reported behaviour
- Mentoring the coach on how to improve his/her behaviour
- Mediation between the aggrieved parties
- Requiring the coach to complete the Play By The Rules on-line training
- Requiring the coach to complete an accredited coaching course or other form of further education
- Issue of a written warning to the coach about their behaviour
- Taking disciplinary action
- Applying a sanction
- Suspending the coach from his/her duties for a period of time
- Dismissing the coach
- or a combination of the above
Any action taken is at the discretion of the club or association or the relevant tribunal if applicable. The complainant DOES NOT determine how their complaint is managed or what (if any) action or sanction is applied.
Where a coach or other team official identifies that an error in their behaviour has occurred or where a misunderstanding may have occurred, it can be beneficial to acknowledge this and offer a sincere apology as this can often result in clarifying the matter with a good outcome and resolution for all parties.
Jacketed Ground Officials
In most associations it is a requirement for clubs to appoint ground officials for every game day and/or for each team (both home and away) to prevent and deal with any incidents that may arise involving poor behaviour. The title of the ground official will vary depending on each club and association. The role is often referred to as Ground Official, Ground Marshal or Jacketed Official.
Club committees can best prepare their ground officials by:
- Providing ground officials with information about their role
- Ensuring ground officials stand out on game day by providing them with a high visibility vest or jacket.
- Providing training – ground officials need the skills and confidence to deal with difficult situations. Have your ground official complete the Play by the Rules Child Protection, Harassment and Complaint Handling training.
- Establishing a reporting system – put in place an incident reporting system for ground officials to use.
- Ground marshal’s should be familiar with steps to help resolve conflict and deal with issues quickly and appropriately.
Match officials are critical to the sport of football and without them there would be no game. Players, team officials parents and spectators should treat them with respect and recognize that they too are often learning, and just like players, can only improve with more training and experience.
Below are some useful resources for Associations and Clubs that can be used to educate and send important messaging via your websites, on social media and at grounds.
Education is the first step to maintaining a consistent approach towards poor sideline behaviour. ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ is a national sport program designed to help clubs and associations tackle the issue of poor sideline behaviour.