‘We’re all in this together’

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An overall plan was announced this morning that stakeholders throughout the Island game hope will lead to better behaviour on and off the pitch.

The move comes on the back of September’s red card explosion, when ten players were sent off over one weekend, several for abuse of referees, including one directed at a 16-year-old official.

The Jersey Football Association, the referees and the Jersey Football Combination have agreed the plan to improve Island football. Clubs are being informed and the plan will be implemented at the start of November.

JFA chief officer Jean-Luc Desbois said: ‘The good thing about all this is the coverage it has been given. It has really highlighted the problem – which is a problem in the game everywhere.

‘We are a small community and we are going to work hard to manage it.

‘We can’t reinvent the wheel, but we have to be more consistent in the application of the laws. Everyone has to support this – including spectators and parents.

‘This whole exercise of improving discipline is as important as safeguarding is to football, so referees are gradually going to up the ante and tackle the problem.

‘The game has changed. Years ago a mistimed tackle was a free kick but now many result in a card and players criticise that.

‘That’s what happens in the game now – the laws are the same all over the world and it is not going to go away by players criticising.

‘We need to take this action as a collective. People behind the scenes are working hard and everyone has a responsibility.’

JFA Referees’ committee chairman Mark Le Cornu said: ‘Everyone has to pull together for the benefit of football.

‘It really has reached a point where something has to be done, because it’s gone too far with what happened last month.

‘A referee can only do as much as possible when it happens in front of him, but clubs, managers and coaches can play a part too by getting everyone to behave.

‘No one party is [totally] guilty in this. We all have to work together to make football a better experience for everyone, as some are turning away from it because of what has happened.’

Desbois added: ‘The journey we are about to embark on will have no finish line, it will take time and a great deal of effort, tolerance and understanding.

‘Under the FA Respect campaign banner I’d like to see leading players in the men’s and women’s games stepping up and leading teams properly.

‘I think it would be good to see local faces on posters calling for Respect and I’m going to contact players and ask them if they are prepared to do it.’

Recent statistics appear to support the stance that a harder line can work. The JFA released figures on the disciplinary front the introduction of the sin-bin last season’, with cautions dropping to 1,802 last season compared to 2,682 in 2016-17.

Said Le Cornu: ‘While the sin-bin may be seen as an extra layer of punishment, it actually helps players and clubs.’

Desbois added: ‘Referees are not under instruction or any pressure to issue more cards, which carry fines – the JFA are not trying to increase revenues through cautions.

‘This may surprise the sceptics, as although sin-bins have reduced income for the JFA, referees and the association encourage and challenge our footballers to reduce the level of fines by improving their conduct.’

The plan to improve Jersey football highlights the more frequent and applied use of sin-bins for dissent and bad language as one way to tackle the issue. It also calls for clubs to punish or exclude serious offenders or troublemakers. Referees have been asked to be firmer with players but to be mindful of respecting them. The changes also extend further than the pitch with sideline players, staff and supporters also partial to the rules. Sanctions will also be eligible against players who use social media to abuse referees, alongside many other changes.

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