DECRYPTION. Referees strike, players attacked… Amateur football faces a rise in violence

Is amateur football losing its mind? In recent months, violence on the ground has exploded all over France. The number of disciplinary files in the leagues and districts is clearly increasing. The phenomenon is not new, but it is gaining momentum this season. The regions that seemed protected from these floods, such as Brittany for example, are seeing this plague increasingly ravage Sunday football.

At the end of March, a Regional 2 referee in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes suffered a violent blow to the face. Maybe he has some scars. That same weekend, an official from the Seine-et-Marne district filed a complaint after an attack in Melun. The video is circulating on social media. In April, Théo, an 18-year-old young umpire, was beaten up like an RC Ploumagoar player during a game of… D3.

last October, West France already gathered the testimony of Souleyman, arbiter and father of a 37-year-old family who had thought that he would die in the battles in Marseillan, in the Hérault. More recently, the Boulogne-Billancourt club suspended training for all of its age groups to protest the rudeness at the edge of the pitch by certain parents. We can black out entire pages.

A situation exacerbated by the covid

Figures from the French Football Association’s Observatory of Behavior, dating from the 2018-2019 season, before Covid, therefore show that more than 12,000 meetings that season were marked by incidents (1.8%). In almost half of the cases (49%) it is verbal attacks. The other half (45%) concerns physical attacks​, mostly (57%) between players. Overwhelmingly, these incidents relate to men’s football.

Some figures to illustrate the violence in amateur football in recent years. † OLIVIER BERNARD

The youngest categories (U6 to U13) are less affected by it, while the U17, U18 or U19 are very concerned about the phenomenon. Finally, the lower in the football hierarchy, the more numerous these incidents are. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is much more concerning as these numbers only take into account matches referred by umpires​, says Williams Nuytens, a sociologist at the University of Artois.

The interruption of football matches for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation. The general atmosphere on and off the field is deteriorating. With the excesses that come with it. An observation seen by Ronan, 23, Region 3 umpire, insulted by a player on the ground. I notice that respect for the profession is declining. Players are not afraid to confront the referees directly, through intimidation or words.Anger is brewing among his colleagues. We need to stop talking about isolated cases where a referee is attacked​, says Jean-Claude Lefranc, president of the National Association of Football Referees (UNAF). The man calls on the authorities to toughen their tone.

He is calling for collective sanctions and wants a club to be banned from competitions when one of its players punches an umpire. We win together, we lose together, we take on together, he said. Several districts have canceled all their weekend meetings in support of their support. Is this enough to raise awareness? It is far from certain.

Minus 4,000 referees

Williams Nuytens, who has long studied the issue, believes this violence is the result of a series of dysfunctions among players, managers and umpires. The covid has accentuated individualism, because there has been a break in practice. Players believe less and less in collective thinking and behave according to what they think is the right behavior. The turnover of licensees accentuates the phenomenon. Players no longer stay on the same team for an entire career. The club is no longer the institution it once was, like the leader’s word, less listened to. Volunteering is also greatly influenced by this turnover. In order for the word to weigh, to influence the behavior of young players, it must have a certain consistency. What is generally obtained by the weight of the years.

The further up the football hierarchy you get, the fewer referees are trained, especially to regulate violent situations. The level of arbitration corresponds to the game level of the playersaccording to the sociologist. The best goes to the best, while it would be necessary to put the pack on a skill to manage anomalous situations in Sunday football.

Jean-Claude Lefranc assures that the training of civil servants has evolved considerably since 2015. They are now trained for about thirty hours in theoretical and practical aspects. We need to encourage those who come and tell them that this position will train you, educate you and grow you.

A novice umpire is generally supervised during his first three or four matches. Which according to the president of Unaf is not enough. For these reasons, fewer and fewer people choose the flute. Since the 2015-2016 season, amateur football has lost nearly 4,500 referees. And the current context does not encourage optimism. An official hit is 10 or 100 youngsters who do not come to the referees. Their protection must be a national priority. And without a referee there is no football.

DECRYPTION. Referees strike, players mistreated… Amateur football faces a rise in violence

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