We Can all be Footy Cops...

Recent publicity has highlighted appalling behaviour on the side lines of school and age-grade football games. Parents abusing referees (often also parents who are just doing the job to help out) and players giving referees a hard time as well.

This was illustrated brilliantly by Hurricanes player, Victor Vito, going under cover as a heavily disguised referee. He was staggered at the amount of flak he received in the role. Whatever happened to the concept of sport: once associated with enjoyment, character-building and positivity? When did bullying become part of it? As a response to this a community policing team is being created to attend junior Saturday matches in Auckland. It is hoped that this will reduce the amount of violent and abusive behaviour at matches. It’s called "Operation Footy Cops" and I imagine many parents will be heaving a sigh of relief at the thought of no longer having to put up with this level of abuse during games. There has been widespread support for this initiative by the police.

Although I think it’s a good move I can’t help also thinking that we, as a community, are missing the boat on this one. It’s a bit like leaving all the responsibility for our behaviour in the hands of the teacher. What about our own responsibility? The KiVa anti-bullying programme has a strong focus on the power of bystanders to influence behaviour in general and reduce bullying in particular. Everyone who is aware of bullying going on has a role and a part to play in stopping it. If everyone does their bit abusive side liners wouldn’t get the same opportunity or tacit support to engage in their bullying antics. We don’t condone drink driving any more. Why do we accept side line bullying? Now, I know that it’s a big ask for one person to stand up to a loud and aggressive person – so what are some creative, reasonable and effective ways that we could all respond to these bullying behaviours and bring the sport back into sport?

Jeremy Bloomfield,1 August 2016

Accent Learning

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