Can Fair Play Awards Stem Aggression?

The Chronicle’s report of the withdrawal of referees from the Thames Valley Premier League last week, has certainly received some publicity in refereeing circles around the world. It arose of course over the standard of behaviour at some clubs and the safety of referees and their assistants, after some had been physically attacked and others threatened or verbally abused.

It also came to the notice of former supremo of Premier League referees, Keith Hackett. He has made a number of suggestions to the League, one of which is to institute a Fair Play Award. This of course is nothing new. Back in 1966 I introduced a Fair Play Award for clubs of the adult leagues, both Saturday and Sunday, in the town. This was not run by the leagues but by the Reading Referees Association, whose members marked the clubs they refereed each week for their sporting conduct and fair play on the field. Their Chairman at that time was Bert Newman, a Football League official, who was also Chairman of the second Saturday league in the town The Reading Combination (formerly the Institute League). The Combination had a spare shield that Bert Newman donated as the Fair Play Trophy and which bore his name.

This trophy was awarded annually until two years ago when no one could be found to carry out the necessary administration duties. Much as I am proud of that Award, with which I incorporated the Club Linesman’s Award that had been running since 1933, I don’t feel I cam claim that its demise, is what has caused the present outbreaks of violence in local football. Although the clubs who received the award, always expressed their pride in its recognition of their fair play, I can’t pretend that it influenced players of other clubs to moderate their behaviour. In the present climate, would any new trophy fare better in restoring player’s behaviour? I fancy stronger measures may be needed.

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