Senator Pallett, who has political responsibility for sport, spoke to the JEP this week following one of Jersey’s worst weekends of verbal abuse against football officials, which saw at least ten red cards and a game having to be stopped midway through.
‘The kind of behaviour we have seen on the field towards referees is not only very disappointing, but it is also unhelpful when we are trying to promote sport and physical activity to young people,’ he said.
‘These issues have been around in football for a long time, and are not specific to Jersey, but it’s a problem that the sport always seems to sidestep. Our match officials need to be protected from abusive behaviour, and they need to be trained to not allow things to fester on the pitch.
‘But as it stands, this is a problem that is doing real harm to the opportunities for growing football in the Island.’
The Jersey Football Association has said that, following last weekend’s events, it will be bringing forward a proposal to tackle the problem in two weeks’ time.
An emergency meeting with local referees has already been held, and further meetings with representatives of disciplinary committees and the national Football Association will follow next week.
Meanwhile, the manager of the Jersey football team, Martin Cassidy, has said that unless something is done, the Island will end up with ‘football that is full of thugs with no respect’.
‘What I would like to see with immediate effect is players, managers, fans and everyone else on the sidelines realise that refereeing is a big part of football. The pressure never goes off the referees, and here we only have a small pool of them, which increases that pressure. So the question is: how do we help referees deal with that pressure?
‘One quick win could be getting them to speak to the manager and the team captain whenever there’s a situation on the pitch – because, unless they can put the pressure and responsibility back onto the club, the whole thing just snowballs.
‘Culturally, we’re going to have to improve massively or it will create a football that’s full of thugs with no respect.’
Senator Pallet added that there is a general recognition that these problems are far less prevalent in rugby. ‘There are some quite jealous eyes looking at rugby from the Island’s football community,’ he said.
Commenting on this, chairman of the Jersey Rugby Club’s juniors, Neil Pinel, said that refereeing a rugby match is as much about coaching as it is about disciplining.
‘The rugby ethos is about the referee also being a coach, rather than simply an authority figure on the pitch. If there’s a problem, then it’s accepted that the referee can stop the game and speak to the whole team, including the manager.
‘We expect respect from our players, and they know that. Personally, I really enjoy refereeing – it’s one of my favourite parts of what I do at the club. But would I referee a football match? Probably not.’