Mersey Youth Football League have signed up to a national initiative in a bid to stop the abuse of referees, which reached such a crisis point last month that weekend fixtures had to be cancelled.

The Silent Side-lines campaign will be in operation for weekend games on Saturday and Sunday November 5/6. Focusing on parental abuse, the aim is to encourage minimal verbal contact between the spectators and players.

Last season 380 bans were issued by the FA for abuse and The Grassroots Post reported nine in ten referees had been verbally abused, with 59.7% receiving abuse every two matches.


Ormskirk FC Manager Matthew Fahy is fully backing the idea: “I hope the weekend is embraced by all and leads to long term change. If that happens then everybody will have won.”

With so many clubs experiencing some form of abuse, Fahy realises his team are lucky to have rarely had abuse issues: “We have had the occasional instance to our kids, and they have visibly shrunk after it. We have also seen that transmit to the kids on the pitch.”

Aware of the impact parents on the side-lines have, Fahy said: “I am firmly of the opinion that the kids are influenced by the parents on the touchline so any initiative that improves parental behaviour will then flow through into the game itself. That has to be beneficial for everyone.

“Many of the issues we see are driven by the need to win. We are now at an age group where fixtures are competitive but at the end of the day our lads are still very much kids. We just want them to play to the best of their ability and enjoy their sport.

“So as long as they have tried their best and applied themselves correctly then they have won in my opinion.”

The national Silent Support weekend is open to all leagues under all county FA’s across the country. As well as Fahy and Ormskirk FC, the initiative has been welcomed by all local clubs.

In a statement, The Liverpool County FA said: “Our aim is simple: to raise awareness of the need to create a positive and pressure-free environment in which children can enjoy football and learn to love and develop their game.

“This will involve coaches and spectators having minimal verbal contact throughout games.

“Too often, there are too many voices from the touchline, too many opinions, and too much unnecessary distraction.

“It’s why we are trialling a Silent Support Weekend to promote respect in youth football.”