England

Parents' abuse at Surrey football matches 'could kill'

Holly Warmington - December 2015
Image caption Holly Warmington stopped being an under-13s referee after one parent "poked her in the chest"

Violence on the touchline at children's football games is so bad that someone may be killed, parents have been told.

The chairman of the Surrey Youth League, Graham Ekins, has reportedly written to its clubs to warn against the rise in abusive behaviour.

Over one weekend in Surrey, parents assaulted officials and even threatened to stab a referee, the Times reported.

The Football Association said incidents targeting match officials at football games were "few and far between".

A spokesman said its Respect campaign had resulted in a "significant drop" in dissent towards referees and more extreme incidents were very rare.

'Too much abuse'

Holly Warmington, 19, said she stopped being a Kent Youth League referee after one parent "poked her in the chest".

The teenager from Kings Hill, in Kent, spent four years refereeing games for the under-13s, but stopped because of all the abuse she was receiving.

"I just got to a point where it was becoming too much abuse and not enough reward."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Grass Roots Football says it receives about 900 reports of parents' misconduct every weekend

Ms Warmington said: "Unfortunately in one incident a parent came onto the pitch after the game and told me how awful I was, swearing in my face.

"He poked me in the chest and told me I shouldn't be a referee, with other awful language as well - that scared me and made me not want to be involved any more."

In an email seen by the Times, Mr Ekins said he feared for the lives of match officials, citing the death of a linesman at a junior match in the Netherlands in 2012.

"Don't believe it wouldn't happen," he warned.

Paul Kirton, director of Grass Roots Football, said the organisation received "somewhere in the region of 900 reports every weekend from around the UK".

"The complaints are very, very similar - somebody who's got over-passionate or over-the-top, and it's either resulted in a push, a shove or a sideline slanging match."

He said parents should help change the culture of youth football, which should be "a sport and a game again... taking away the seriousness, especially for the youngsters".

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