Seven years of Respect – but has it actually worked?

As we enter an eighth season of Respect, the FA’s programme to improve behaviour in football, a new Club Website poll has revealed that little has changed for the majority of the grassroots football community.

In a poll of Club Website members, 57 percent of more than 1,200 respondents said that behaviour has not improved in the grassroots game since Respect launched in 2008.

For those people not participating in official Respect leagues, that percentage grows even higher, with nearly two in three (64%) saying the behaviour has not improved.

Results are more promising for those clubs and leagues participating under the Respect umbrella, although the majority (54%) still believe that things have not improved in seven years.

The FA’s own Respect statistics have cast a more positive light on the programme’s success, with dissent cautions across the game down by 23 per cent since 2008, while misconduct charges relating to team officials or spectators are down by 13 per cent.

Referee numbers have grown from 23,000 to 27,000 since Respect launched, with the FA addressing a worrying exodus of referees from the game that, in part, lead to the creation of the programme in the first place.

Respect Set Your Stall Out logoOver the last seven years, the FA has sought to improve the environment around youth football by introducing designated spectator areas, Respect training for coaches, codes of conduct, pitch-side marshalls, parents briefings and Respect signage.

But has this proved enough?

Has the touchline behaviour of spectators, coaches and officials – so often the focus of the campaign – improved in line with the FA’s efforts to improve the environment?

Our poll results suggest that for the majority of people they haven’t and there remains a significant way to go, with everyone in the game – clubs, leagues, players, coaches and officials – needing to do their part.

Dermot Collins, the FA’s Respect Manager, said: “It’s important to realise that the Respect programme is not a policing initiative by the FA but largely about campaigning, supporting good practice and providing resources for clubs and leagues to use to raise awareness of the consequence of poor behaviour.

“What we have seen with the Respect programme is improvements in some parts of the game, particularly in the national league system and youth football, but there is still work to do in other areas of the game.

“What is interesting from this survey is the difference in perception between those playing in Respect Leagues and those that are not.

“If clubs and leagues don’t engage then it can come as little surprise that behaviour doesn’t change.”

Have your say on Respect!

What do you think about our poll results and the FA’s own stats on the success of the Respect progamme over the last seven years?

Whose responsibility is it to improve behaviour at grassroots football matches? What more could the FA do to ensure that behaviour levels improve? But what can clubs and leagues themselves do to help overcome the problem?

Have your say in the comments section below!

Poll result: Has behaviour in grassroots football improved since the Respect programme launched in 2008?

Overall (1,236 votes):
No 56.8% / Yes 43.2%

In a Respect League (962):
No 54.8% /  Yes 45.2%

Not in a Respect League (274):
No 63.9% / Yes 36.1%

This article appeared in The Clubhouse – the monthly newsletter from Club Website. To get the best grassroots news, offers and competitions straight to your inbox every month, sign up today!

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
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.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. Douglas Merrick on September 24, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I agree with the results: players do not understand what the ‘Respect’ campaign is about, as an Assitant Referee I have been told ‘You’re supposed to show us respect’ when I answered back after being told I was useless and had made a mistake!
    Professional standards need to be upheld not just controversy for the TV to sell subscriptions.
    The FA make life extremely difficult for grass roots officials but appearing soft on language, violence and cheating in the professional leagues.
    Clubs don’t control their players, simple as, they want to win at all costs and tough luck on the officials, who they see as objects in the way of winning – not all clubs but a minority in a lot of clubs.

  2. JOHN PALMER on September 24, 2015 at 2:28 pm


  3. Mr, John Adams on September 24, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Much of the problem is, the culprit does not believe he/she is the perpetrator.
    In fact, to the contrary, they believe they are the game’s saviour with their vast knowledge, this from their little soldier playing the game.
    Truth is, even the crusading doer of good, has on occasions failed the respect campaign, with the most difficult of putting it right by saying, ‘sorry’

  4. Pete on September 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    My wife and I watched the FA respect videos a few years ago, which show it from a child’s perspective. They were brilliant and totally changed us. Maybe if it was made compulsory for parents to watch them before they were able to register their kids with a team it might make a difference? Worth a try…

  5. Rosie Butcher on September 24, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Grassroots teams are folding all over the country mainly due to financial problems. I understand the thinking and reasons behind the respect programe and it has our full support. However there surely must be another way to deal with it rather than charging fines to already struggling teams otherwise there will be no grassroots left for you to worry about !! Grassroots teams have to face a massive annual pitch fee bill from their local councils of around the £1000 a season per team if the FA could somehow help with these costs in some way then maybe they might get more co-operation from players because after all respect has to go both ways .

  6. Rob on September 24, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    I have seen more coaches and managers screaming over the top… then yappy parents join in.

    I think referees, should pause the game, warn the guilty parties. If no improvement, call time and the guilty party is banned from the next 5 matches!

  7. Karl on September 24, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    i would ban parents from touch line….or make them stand 30m back, most of the problems that refs, clubs linesmen,managers and kids have stem from pushy parents that think they know better but never stand up to help..rant over

  8. Alan Baugh on September 24, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    My son is a player and a referee. Some of the disgusting comments he has to put up with, from parents and grandparents of all ages, when refereeing,have to be heard to be believed.
    This happens even down at age group ,under 7,s.
    I must admit it has almost led to blows, on the touchline, when you confront these people over what has been said.
    They seem to think it is fair game to insult the referee even though, like there particular child, he has to learn somewhere.

  9. Darrel Conibeer on September 25, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    As a manager the pressure put on us by the parents for the team to win can be quite tough, most of us are only volunteer parents who give up their time to allow the kids to have fun playing football. Children learn from watching their parents behaviour and think this is the way to behave. I am lucky to be part of a club that do not have a ” win at all cost ” approach. Very proud that the team in 2014/2015 season won the U11’s sportsmanship title. When winning becomes more important than enjoyment it will be time to hang up the boots.

  10. Chris Horton on September 26, 2015 at 8:36 am

    2 signs I’ve seen that perhaps could be pointed to if displayed at all youth pitches & sum up the views of many:

    “This is a Game.
    These are Children.
    The coaches are Volunteers.
    The ref is only Human.”
    “Before you moan,
    What are you going to do to help?”

  11. Matt on October 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    It is having a positive effect I think. The vast majority of parents in the area where my boys play football are thoroughly onside with the Respect guidelines. Any that go too far are often upbraided by their fellow spectators. This is obviously only based on local experiences though

  12. Chris Gillard on October 15, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Football players at all levels will not concede that their actions are ever wrong. Witness the Premier player shrug his shoulders look at the ref with a “who me” attitude and a “Can you believe that” facial expression. This behaviour is reflected down to grass roots football.
    The F.A need a serious campaign. “Respect” logos aren’t enough. Metre high posters are required at all grounds.

  13. c mcauley on October 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    my relatives live in England and are involved in kids/ youth football and parents not allowed near touchline there are very little problems and coaches are given 1 warning and then told to leave here if parents are abusing ref then the ref shud have the power to go to coach and tell them to tell the parent they must leave line or match wont proceed takes onus off ref and sends warning to both partys and result will go to opposing team as parents must be on the line of their team

  14. andy welch on November 4, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    No its not working. I left coaching end of last season after serious abuse from a parent. After i advised him to stop abusing the oposition and ref. I reported it to my club no action was taken. I was advised by my club they hoped it would blow over. After this input i decided to leave coaching. The team has now disbanded and the club has no team in the later age groups. Thats the real lose. Thats 20 lads no longer playing.

Join the discussion