Where do you draw the line?

I really like the idea of the respect line that the English Football Association has recommended clubs use to keep parents and supporters at bay during youth matches. It is a line that gives parents a clear and visual guide as to where they should be standing when a match is being played.

I hate it when the big boot of a parent stops the ball on the touchline when one of the players is close enough to keep the ball in but can’t because of the proximity of the supporters. So, as far as I’m concerned, any rule that keeps them at a distance is one worth upholding.

The linesman

At the older age groups playing 11-a-side it also means that the linesman has a clear run and a clear view, without a baying crowd claiming it was their ball before it had even gone out of play. The respect line has a place at any age group in youth football.

So it was a slight surprise to my right hand man last week when I complained that the respect line was too close to the pitch and wasn’t working. I wanted to move it further back because of the chaos the opposition parents were causing during the match.

Too close to the pitch

We were playing our local rivals and there was an army of mums on the touchline, several of whom had dogs with them. To be fair the dogs were all on leads. But they were right on the edge of the pitch, and I guess dogs don’t see the respect line in the same way as their owners.

What annoyed me was that when my team had a throw in along the side of the pitch occupied by these supporters and their dogs, my players were not interested in taking the throw. To put it simply, they were scared of the dogs.
So at half-time I decided to move the respect line further back. I banged in a couple of corner flags and slung a rope between them and told the parents the respect line had moved.

Staying behind the line

To be fair to the parents, they stayed well behind the new line and the dogs on their long leads could not get close enough to scare the players.

Which leads me to the question of how we decide where to draw the line with parents as spectators? The answer is simple – it’s a decision that must be taken on the day, once the match has started. So, don’t be afraid to move it back and keep the parents at bay.

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