The 10-week pilot scheme, created as part of the recent National Game Strategy, involved 4,500 players from 345 teams in 20 adult and youth leagues across England. 160 referees took part in the pilot, officiating in games where three trial measures were employed:
- only the captain of a side was able to speak to the referee
- roped-off areas were created for spectators using specially-made Tensa barriers, to prevent encroachment on to the field of play
- codes of conduct were issued for players, coaches and parents with associated sanctions
After each game designated players, referees, club officials and parents would complete an online feedback system to comment on levels of behaviour and respect.
Parallel to this, the FA ran control leagues where participants completed the online feedback without having been subject to the pilot measures, allowing them to make meaningful comparisons between the two groups.
Independent researchers are analysing the feedback and results will be made available in a few weeks. However, an FA spokesperson told Club Website that informal feedback has been "very positive from across the pilot".
Whilst awaiting the results, thoughts have turned to how to build on the pilot and take the scheme forward next season.
Following recent examples of professional players not respecting officials, there are calls from around the game for the FA to clamp down on the issue across the game. Indeed, insisting that only the captain approach a referee is a measure that could easily be employed right to the very top.
A meeting to discuss the issue of respect is scheduled later this month between officials from organisations across the top of the game: the FA, the Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers Association, League Managers Association and Referees’ Association.
After initially aiming the Respect campaign at just grassroots football, it seems that the FA has conceded that a cross-game approach is needed sooner rather than later.
"We want the professional game to agree what they can buy in to and sustain during next season," Director of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking told TheFA.com.
"Next year will be a much wider scheme and we can really get feedback of where it’s working and where it’s not and what has been beneficial and what we have got to improve in the months ahead."
"It’s not going to be improved overnight but I think even on the 10 week scheme the feedback is ’yeah, this is something you should have done quite a while ago.’"
Dan Pope, Club Website editor