If you head out to watch any of the hundreds of teams representing St George Football Association clubs this weekend there will be an eerie silence fallen over the grounds.
The association have taken a proactive approach on spectator behaviour with their support of the Shoosh for Kids campaign.
The campaign is a collaborative effort between the Office of Sport and state sporting organisations to promote positive sideline behaviour at junior sporting events.
The purpose is to create positive environments at grass roots sport while addressing issues which arise from poor sideline behaviour including abuse of match officials, reduced volunteer numbers and reduced participation rates.
While poor fan behaviour is not exclusive to any one sport, St George FA have decided to take matters into their own hands after a number of “disappointing” incidents to start the season.
The biggest impact poor sideline behaviour has had has been on referee numbers. While SGFA’s player numbers increased again by three per cent this season, its referee stocks have fallen dramatically.
St George FA general manager, Craig Kiely, said the association believed in the principles behind the campaign and had a simple message for spectators.
“Not unlike any other sport or local association we have issues at grounds on weekends whether that be abuse of officials or parents being overly enthusiastic on the sidelines,” he said.
“It’s certainly not widespread but we’ve seen enough issues going on through the course of the season that we need to get better. Ultimately these are issues faced by all sports to varying degrees. I think it’s a great thing that this positive message is being promoted.
“We see verbal abuse towards officials at times but we also see parents and spectators on the sidelines potentially being too aggressive towards players on the field, whether that be players on their own team or the opposition.
“Sometimes you even find particular individuals being overly enthusiastic in encouraging their own kids. To these people I’d say at times parents may need to reflect on what it’s really all about which is having fun at the end of the day, particularly at this level.
“Kids just want to enjoy their sport with their friends on the weekend. Stay quiet, let the kids play, the referees referees and the coaches coach and just enjoy watching the games.”
There has been an overall reduction in the number of incidents handled by the association’s Monday night judiciary and Thursday night general purpose tribunal so far this season. The association’s zero tolerance policy has already seen some harsh penalties meted out for poor behaviour which has acted as a deterrent.
“Not only does [abuse] have an impact on the players on the field but that negative environment impacts officials and referees,” Kiely said.
“We are down on referees this year. That’s a fact. There was a survey conducted last year by our referee’s association and number one key issue of referees not wanting to return is because of the abuse on weekends.”