Dermot, please accept a warm welcome to US Referee Connection.
Why does football/soccer need a Respect Campaign? What is the message of the Respect Campaign to everybody involved in football?
We have a fantastic sport but it operates in a society with problems and football sometimes reflects these problems. Respect is a concerted effort to remind people of their collective responsibility to act for the good of the game and confront some of the negative influences that detract from its attraction.
Since 2008, when the Respect Campaign began, what has been achieved both at the grassroots and professional levels so far?
We know the Respect program aims to build a relationship between referees and team captains. What do you think is the benefit of referees and team captains working together?
This is an approach that many sports use. It just helps to break down barriers between players, coaches and match officials and initiates working relationships between the captain and a referee. It also imposes a responsibility on a team to look to the conduct of its players rather than expecting the referee to manage this.
Do you think that coaches need to attend a Respect program clinic to be better informed?
Yes – they are hugely influential. I think it’s generally recognized that poorly behaved coaches tend to have undisciplined teams. The opposite is also true. At the FA we have integrated Respect into the initial coaching award syllabus.
How important is it to have a Respect program at the youth level?
This year we have u/11 players that have had 4 seasons of Respect. Their experience of the game is predominantly a very positive one. If we can persist with the program, these players will enter adult soccer with better attitudes than their predecessors. Youth players are also much more receptive to being educated than adults that are set in their ways.
How important is it to ensure the quality and training of referees in relation to the Respect program?
Respect has to be more than just a Refereeing program but referees are key to its success. If the Referees are not employing the Respect measures with the support of a league it’s unlikely that anyone else will do so.
What is the impact or benefits of the Respect Awards?
The main benefit of the Respect awards is to identify good practice and then show another league or club – ‘Here are people that look like you tackling the same problems that you face’. It’s much more persuasive than someone from the Soccer Association telling them what they should do it.
What do you think about the ‘RESPECT” Campaign that US Soccer launched in 2011?
It’s a good start but it’s not always an easy message to sell. You need imaginative marketing, persuasive ambassadors, high level support and most of all persistence to succeed.
What do you think is needed to make this Respect Campaign a success here in the U.S.?
Respect works best where people realize that there is a problem. In England we had a big issue in that some adults were involved in youth soccer for their own adult reasons rather than the development of children as players and people. When we made people aware of their impact on the enjoyment of children things began to change. Respect will work if it is driven by peer pressure and not if it is only seen as an initiative of the Soccer Association. I always liken Respect to smoking, drunk driving, recycling, racism – these are issues that through a process of campaigning, legislation, research and education societal attitudes have been transformed. It takes time and persistence however to achieve this change.
AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) is one of the most important organizations at the youth level here in U.S. , and they had embraced the idea of Respect in soccer. They launched their own campaign in 2012 entitled “Respect starts with me”. What will be your message to all the youth players?
I really like the strap line ‘Respect Starts with me’. I wish we had thought of it’!
In general I don’t think there is a problem with youth players– the issues normally arise with the behavior or influence of their parents, supporters and coaches. My messages would therefore be from youth players to the adults that support them;
US Referee Connection has been working hard in promoting the Respect Campaign here in the U.S. since our first conversation back in 2011. Now that we can see important organizations like US Soccer and AYSO promoting and embracing this concept, we think that the Respect Campaign should go worldwide. Do you know if other football/soccer organizations around the world are planning to be part of it?
In 2011 I visited Japan where the FA launched their own ‘Respect FC’ club http://www.respectfc.jp/ . The Dutch have adopted Respect in an approach that brings together different sports. I frequently provide materials to other associations around the world.
What is on the 2013 agenda for the Respect program?
Besides your involvement in the Respect program, are you/ were you a coach, referee or soccer player?
Yes – even at 47 I still drag my weary bones around the field every Saturday for the community club in which I am also Chairman and coach. It gives me a great understanding of grassroots soccer.
Dermot, we want to thank you for your kind and insightful contribution to our Referee Community.