Young referees were the real winners of the Lancashire Football Association’s “Silent Weekend”.
The weekend – which aimed to reduce abusive language and encourage parents and coaches to keep quiet – was hailed as a resounding success for the future of refereeing by county welfare officer Neil Yates.
Neil said: “We normally get 10 to 15 reports every weekend from young referees of abusive language or threats from the sidelines.
“But so far after the weekend we haven’t had one negative report from a referee.
“In fact, one referee said the weekend was the first time in three years he has not been abused while on the pitch.”
There are 600 young referees aged 14 to 18 across Lancashire, and Eamonn McNamara, chairman of the Preston Referees Society, believes the county has a pool of talent that needs nurturing.
He said: “I think the LFA scheme is great, we fully back them.
“It is important that young referees are given the opportunity to learn the trade without abuse from the sidelines.
“In Preston, we have a tremendous pool of young officials and it is important that they are encouraged.”
The one-off scheme saw 200 clubs from 19 leagues across Lancashire fall silent and the weekend, unique to Lancashire, was backed by the English FA and Preston North Eend manager Simon Grayson.
But Neil admitted the weekend was not to everyone’s tastes and he hopes members of the Central Lancs Junior League and Preston clubs will continue the good work.
He said: “From more than 300 surveys we have had back, and through social media, the reaction is mainly positive.
“But that is not to say everyone agreed with it. The children seem to have enjoyed it, but some of the adults are still unsure.
“If the children enjoyed themselves and we have changed some people’s attitudes then it was a success.
“We are in the process of compiling a report of the weekend to see what we can learn from it and plan something long-term to tackle bad behaviour in junior football.
“This was an extreme move, but we had to be extreme to grab people’s attention.
“We won’t be doing another scheme, but hopefully the clubs themselves can carry on with their own silent weekends and notice the difference.”
If you have had a negative experience with grassroots football contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.