Youth football needs "revolution" in parent behaviour – Lineker

Gary Lineker has called for a “parental cultural revolution” in youth football in a bid to improve the long-term fortunes of the English game.

The Match of the Day presenter and England’s second-highest ever goalscorer is fed up of “maniacal parents on the touchline spouting nonsense at their children”, which he believes acts as a hindrance to the development of young players.

“The competitive nature of most mums and dads is astounding,” said Lineker in an article for “The fear they instil in our promising but sensitive Johnny is utterly depressing. We need a parental cultural revolution. If we could just get them to shut the f*ck up and let their children enjoy themselves, you would be staggered at the difference it would make.

Lineker has been critical of some recent performances by the senior England team and the tactics employed by manager Roy Hodgson in these games, but the presenter was full of praise for recent FA initiatives to improve the experience of football for the game’s youngest players.

“In very recent times, the FA has made some long-overdue but crucial changes that should make a drastic difference to the kind of player we develop,” said Lineker.

“In this country, since footballs made from pigs’ bladders were whacked into goals without nets, we’ve played on full-size pitches. Whatever our age. This is ludicrous. Seven and eight-year-olds valiantly trying to cover the same acreage as those grown-up chaps in the Premier League is absurd.”

The former Tottenham and Everton striker also praised the initiatives in place by Premier League academies that ask parents to be quiet while watching matches.

“This has allowed talented young players to express themselves on the field, to take people on, to try a trick, all without the dreaded, predictable rubbish cascading into their ears. This is a very good thing. Who cares who wins an under-eights game? Who cares if a youngster makes a mistake? It’s how we learn.”

To read the article in full, please visit

Youth football revolution – have your say!

Do you agree with Gary Lineker that a “parental cultural revolution” is required in youth football? Would the grassroots game benefit if, as Lineker suggests, parents kept quiet? And do you agree that the FA’s recent changes to youth football can only benefit long-term player development?

Have your say in our comments section below!

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. James Brook on October 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    As a new manager of an under 7’s team and having only undertaken the role for a couple of months now, I have already witnessed a few examples of parents, and to a certain degree the coaches of other teams, perhaps being over zealous in their criticism of some players. As far as I could tell, it had an immediate negative effect on the player in question.

    Players at this age should be able to enjoy the game and learn from their mistakes, which they do recognise, without anyone repeatedly telling them about it.

  2. Lee Shelton on October 31, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I completely agree. The years when I played. The parents would come over and take part in the team talk, leaving us kids, completely confused. Along with parents shouting just before my players kick, pass or try to tackle. You couldn’t get a more pressurised environment. Thankfully now, the parents are away from the pitch and given standards by our club to adhere too.

  3. Mat Burdett on October 31, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Gary’s spot on, and he’s not the first to say so. Chrissy Waddle famously ranted about our attitude to youth football on 5live after our routing by the Germans in South Africa. I have to hold my hands up and admit I was as guilty as anyone as a coach, but I realised I was doing more harm than good to my players so I stayed away from the games on sundays, and just concentrated on the training on Saturdays, when I could remain calm and focused.

  4. Robert Guthrie on October 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Well said gary every sunday I am tempted to tell these morons at touchline to shut the fuck up ,but not only parents are to blame some coaches need to have a good look at themselves to.also local authorities need to have a long hard look at themselves regarding pricing of pitches training etc..

  5. Julie on October 31, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I agree entirely with Gary Linakers comments regarding parents on the touchline. as secretary of a large Youth football club we try very hard to make our parents aware of the standards of behaviour required of them and on the whole most comply. it is most annoying when you go to other clubs who’s parents have no regard for their child’s enjoyment no idea of the impact their behaviour has on others and more importantly nothing is done by the clubs or the FA to deal with this behaviour. The worst thing of all is the abuse young referees get from these parents as well. They are totally unaware of the consequences of their actions. Their child will cease to enjoy a game of football and young referees will leave the game . I agree we need a cultural revolution to stamp this behaviour out.

  6. Sam Woodall on October 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Excellent comments from Lineker, I have a little brother who has just started playing. He is six years old. The first thing his manager asked the parents to do was to “let him do the coaching”. This is absolutely right. He’s the man with the badges and the experience. I know we all want the best for the kids, but sometimes what we think is best isn’t always so.

  7. Leigh Knightley on October 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Yes i agree with Gary, parents should keep quiet and let the children learn and develope.
    respect barriers should be a lot further away from the side of pitches
    Even some managers are win at all costs which is disappointing.
    We should play football in the right way too and not keep lumping the ball over the top which i find a lot of junior teams do.

  8. Graham Stephenson on November 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I tend to agree. At a recent match in which my grandson was playing the other team had three coaches all shouting instructions. I cannot accept that this is helpful. Nobody ever watched me from my family until my daughters came to watch a few matches near the end of my career. There was no coaching from the side lines at school during matches, nor at University or later when playing in an amateur league. On match days the role of the coach should be minimal. I know it is difficult as a parent to keep quiet but I had to learn this watching my elder daughter play netball as I was told by her that I must keep very quiet.

  9. Ian MacVicker on November 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    The whole game needs a reality check, where other than a football stadium can you shout vile and abusive comments to some one who is trying to move the game forward? I have coached 2 teams for 9 years and the one issue is the standard of coaches. I served 24 in the forces and learned to respect. Football thinks it doesn’t need to conform. The next time someone shouts something abusive or detrimental then take them to task!! Don’t be then quiet man!! It’s too easy to say nothing, do something!

  10. Sean on November 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Until we ban parents from games we will not move on. In the last 4 years as a coach I’ve seen ‘parents’ threaten to hit children in our team, I’ve witnessed volunteer coaches threatened with physical violence by irate Dads and constant screams of “clear it” and “kick it out” and worst if all “break his legs”. Unbelievable behaviour and would not be tolerated anywhere else in society. Parents Drop the kids off – pick them up and just let them play.

  11. Terence Bates on November 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I run a youth team and Lineker is right. But it is not just parents its coaches too. The Problem in solving this Is going to be tough and a long haul.

    There are a number of things that we can do in order to get to grips with this. It is ultimately a question of standards and needs backing up by being tougher on those who are abusive or violent. Zero tolerance.

    1. There needs to be an association of football leagues at grassroots level. One association, but broken down regionally. This would enable the leagues to work together to identify troublesome clubs where the coaches may present a problem. The leagues need to standardise their discipline procedures and if necessary after a process eject any teams/coaches that are a problem. This information can be made available to all other leagues.

    2. Technical areas need to be clearly marked and cordoned off as areas for coaches /subs to stay throughout the game. Coaches will then be forbidden to prowl the touch line.

    3. Grassroots managers association broken into regional level. This again will present both a voice and a standard bearer for those involved in the game and will enable a better synergy between managers coaches and clubs.

    4. Referees at the start of the game need to pull coaches, players and parents together to remind them of their responsibility at football matches a cheer don’t jeer mantra needs to be promoted to all. This can be backed up with leaflets on very match day.

    Gary Lineker and his ilk should offer their services and tour the country to endorse a cheer don’t jeer philosophy for football. The FA needs to be far more proactive in this respect and target specific money at this problem.

    Then we can look at coaching and football facility standards because they need raising.

  12. david rankin on November 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    easy thing should be is parents watch from a safe distance …and when kids move from 7 a side up to 11 a side keep the smaller nets tilll the children are 14. not a goal keeper who in 4 feet 4 in full size nets. this would help to

  13. Steve on November 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Fully agree with Lineker’s comments. I run a youth football team and although many parents are very supportive of the players and coaches, there are always the idiots who think they know best. Recently an over competitive dad, who is basically destroying his sons confidence with his idiotic touchline comments, threatened one of the coaches with physical violence for daring to try and point this out to him. Coaches are unpaid volunteers who don’t deserve to be subjected to this. If this happened in the workplace then this idiot would be sacked!!!

  14. Steven on November 17, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I agree with every comment,as a referee I am shocked at the abuse that is hurled from the touchlines by parents and coaches.I personally try to adopt a zero tolerance to this ,but it needs consistency from referees to report issuesto leagues & try to remove those mouths from the sidelines . Been refereeing for 7 years & nothing has changed #sadbuttrue

  15. JOHN WELCH on November 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Absolutely everything Gary and all the comments above are spot on. Our two sons played initially for a well known FA Charter Junior Club in Gloucestershire. Our teams generally behaved well kids and parents when we went to away games say the cities and large towns that is when parent trouble started and also started the odd rogue kid. My sons were good standard and were scouted by League Clubs and eventually signed for COE’s and Academies the youngest was selected and played for 2 years at a Premiership Academy. We were massively proud when they got through the six week trials and were signed on. Also when we saw COEs and Academies made the parents standard back many yards behind ropes and shut up we were then very very releaved about that scenario and we got away from the manic abusive shouting of parents. We only applauded lightly at pro club games. Parents that abuse teams ; opposition ; own team even OWN son were generally lacking intelligence; awareness of the game; didn’t like the own son’s coach; over competitive’ living the game through their siblings; everything geared to shooting from all over the pitch; kick and rush; “get rid of it” their favorite cry!….. then there is the dad’s son – he’s never dropped; he’s never sub or subbed; he takes free kicks ; penalties all corners; wears the captain’s armband; I have even seen many times the son rowing with the coach about a defeat. Junior football is appallingly run. The coaching system monopolysed by manic no social skills no coaching skilled dads (often no one else wants to do the job) ……..such dads just run the team to ensure their son plays. Mums are generally lacking in any understanding of the game don’t even stick up for the team only cheers if THEIR son scores! 6 a side tournements brig out the worse with poxy plastic medals up for grabs as if they are the World Cup. When you son is at an COE/Academy you as parents and siblings ESCAPE !!!…………. unfortunately the Pro-Clubs then hate the parents and tar them all with the same brush – but you soon realise keep your distance speak to coaches when spoke to just be a taxi service is the best policy ; don’t offer the club money or sponsorship – I have seen that too as a sort of bribe
    The COE/Academies need reorganising they take kids too early and they reject kids too early – take no account of puberty; early and late physical and mental development

  16. Mandy Swift on November 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    My husband is a volunteer coach for an under 7 team and the poor children are torn during matches. The parents shout different things to what my husband is saying and the kids have no idea who to listen too. My son who plays in the team is the only one who doesn’t have a conflict of interest. I am all up for parents supporting the team but whats the point of them having a coach if the poor little things can hear what he is trying to say .

  17. Harry Westwood on November 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I play in goal for an U16’s team and I’ve seen loads of our games ruined by parents. They try and shout tips and advice for things they know nothing about, try and rush you into things, and once a fight nearly broke out. I’ve even had some abuse hurled at me before, which at youth level I find disturbing and disgusting. So I agree 100% with Gary, it is very much needed.

  18. Andy Marriott on November 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    At grass roots level there is a major disparity. The FA have been excellent at bringing in proper accredited and affordable training for all those who want to be involved in the game. As a coach I have to have to undergo a rigorous CRB checking process to be able to have access to young people and I choose to undertake hours and hours of continuous professional development a year to be part of the Licensed Coaches Club. For coaches coming into the game, on the surface of it, at any rate, football at grass roots level is healthy and thriving. That’s unfortunately where it seems to end. First of all, we have a system of mini Football Associations called local leagues which although pride themselves as having the mantra ‘all about youth football’ are actually run in exactly the same way as the big boys association is, including fining grass roots players the same for a yellow card as a premier league professional, and supplementing income from team registrations by fining clubs for non-attendance at meetings, failure to return a document on an exact specific date and so forth. I myself was fined £70 for not being able to attend a meeting because of a work commitment. A meeting that I received the minutes from a week later in an email which show that it lasted around three quarters of an hour. But it’s not just the red tape and bureaucracy it’s the fact that the players have to play in organised leagues with league tables, relegation battles, championship deciders and cup competitions that brings out the sheer stupidity of some. Parents who see their child as the next £50k a week star who spend Saturday afternoons screaming abuse at a bunch of other £50k a week stars think nothing of doing the same on a Sunday morning, shouting abuse and taunts to opposition players. Coaches who think they are managing Real Madrid to a champions league spot argue with referees and worse; volunteer linesmen, to the point of actual physical abuse. Players who are numbed to the fact that they should be out there enjoying themselves being instructed to ‘take him out’ and ‘smash it up the pitch’ who are either put off of the whole thing or are carried along on it. And then there’s the teams who just want to play football. Over the past year, I have become less and less enamoured with organised league matches. They don’t reflect the development made by your players in training sessions, and when you are fighting a losing battle against ‘win at all costs’ opposition coaches and parents having a ‘good game’ doesn’t really cut it.
    My solution is either a) all games at grass roots level under the age of 16 should be friendlies, with no recording of scores and no league tables for parents and coaches to compare and contrast or b) FA coach training should include compulsory modules on ‘being a football manager of young people’ which should also include sections for administrators of leagues to make them truly youth friendly and for parents of registered players to ensure they really ‘buy into’ the whole respect issue. Trying to ban parents from attending their child’s football is not going to work, nor would it solve anything in the current scheme of things. We have to re-educate everyone involved in the game at this level and build on the excellent work already started by the FA but make it available to all before it is too late.

  19. Gus Hughes on November 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I agree with a lot of it too. The only thing I’d contradict on is that when Gary says ‘who cares who wins an under-8s match?’, the fact is that some of the kids do.

  20. simon mortley on November 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    There is an underlying issue with supporters & officials from the top to the bottom. You just have to look at how so called professional footballers abuse the referee on the pitch week in week out broadcast every week on tv. This then rubs off on the supporters who watch on the terraces on a Saturday who then in turn bring that to the touchline on a Sunday morning.
    Referees association need to look at the way Rugby Union conduct their matches. Discipline is the way forward. The referee is called ‘Sir’ by all involved in the game players and spectators alike. There is very little if any verbal abuse towards them, unlike in football. There is more communication between Referee & team captain, this is then filtered back to the players.
    Getting back to grass roots football, both youth and adult. There is very little, from what I see every week of any financial backing to clubs to help with competant management and training. Who ever has the time to give up to take on the job as manager or coach gets the job, no matter how poor or good their training & management techniques are. Their failings are then magnified by the spectators watching. Discipline is then lost.
    The referee should be stricter on abuse. Again I see this as a footbal club official, but with a grounding in Rugby Union.
    To be bluntly honest. Football at all levels suffers from spectator abuse. Kids at school are not allowed to be competetive, so when outside the school walls the competetive spirit kicks in in overdrive which rubs off with copetetive Dad syndrome.

  21. eamonn hughes on February 25, 2014 at 4:47 pm


  22. Dawn Hollings on November 4, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I agree 100% with Gary Linekar, something needs to be done about parents on the sidelines of their children’s football matches. I have witnessed as a parent of three football mad sons and the wife of a voluntary football coach the disgusting and immature attitudes of parents who shout abuse at kids, refs, coaches and other parents. It is totally shocking and just recently witnessed my husband being threatened by a parent for subbing his son during a match. He verbally threatened to come and knock his F****** head off. Something needs to be done about parents like this, who are just spoiling the game and ruining it for everyone else.

  23. Chris Johnson on February 4, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Sort out the state of grassroots pitches before anything else, no directive will work if the foundation is not sound.
    We can all talk about problems with parents however the first problem on everyone’s list is the state of our pitches.

    See here, Gary is part of the problem, while he might say the right things he is part of the F.A which has its own agenda-Money!

    Greg Dyke ex BBC, Roger Devlin also a F.A board member but more importantly Devlin chairs S.I.S the company that uplink most of the pictures- are you seeing a trend yet?

    What makes profit in football? Pictures possibly?
    Television possibly?

    Let’s take Harry Kane for instance, kids are signed up at 7/8 years old they are contracted to a club (club’s, the premier league and FA are all separate entities they will have you believe) that club along with their associates Premier/FA will have control of their contracts until they become 17/18 when they become marketable then profitable will the process be completed.

    What would happen if a child progressed at 16 not in any contract, they could demand any amount of money- this would be a financial disaster for the football bodies if replicated lots of times- that’s why we have the grassroots pitches in a poor state nationwide and that’s what the FA’s Gary Lineker create these deliberate diversions.

  24. Michelle mordecai on August 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    It’s the parents who criticise everyone else’s child that gets me especially when their child isn’t so great themselves!

  25. […] When I talk to football referees and fellow school teachers whose children play football, one of their regular comments concerns the shouting that comes from other parents and coaches on the sidelines. At best it could be the over repetition of phrases straight from ‘Match of the Day’ which the children do not understand let alone know how to respond too. At worse it is the over aggressive nature of the shouts from parents which can be on the boundary of abuse. A few years ago Gary Linker said youth football needs revolution in parent behaviour. […]

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