Ssshhhh! Pushy parents and mouthy managers are being asked to zip it at children’s football games this weekend.
The ‘Silent Weekend’ is being trialled by the Lancashire Football Association amid fears that shouting from the sidelines is stunting the development of stars of the future.
There have even been instances of parents fighting and swearing at referees and young players .
All youth teams in the county - ranging from under 7s to under 16s- have been asked to join in the trial and ask managers and parents to remain silent on the touchline.
Dean Stevely, manager and welfare officer of Blackpool’s Spirit of Youth under 10s Vipers team, and the Myerscough under 13 girls team, said: “It’s not just shouting at the kids, we even had an entire tournament cancelled last summer after a referee was abused and two parents started fighting.
“I’ve had to ask a couple of parents who had been verbally abusing their own children to leave and not come back again.
“Some of them take the game too seriously and it’s frightening the pressure they put their children under.
“I’ve literally had to ask some of the girls to go and get some tissue from the toilets so I could shove it in my ears to block it all out.”
But Mr Stevely added that he felt the initiative was taking the idea too far.
His son Ben, nine, said: “I think it’s a good idea. We get parents shouting at the ref when we are playing and it puts us off.”
Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander said: “I remember abuse from the touchlines,” he said. “Normally it was my dad, nailing me every two minutes. In a strange way it prepared me for what it was going to be like as a professional footballer.”
He added: “It (abuse) doesn’t help . But you can’t take the passion out of football and the parents. I would hope it wouldn’t be silent but just balanced in what people say.”
Steve Stewart, the organisation’s referee development manager, said more young people might train as referees if they felt they would be better treated from the sidelines.
He said: “Referees receive damning publicity from Saturday night Match of the Day pundits,” he said. “I’m sure they are a bad influence on parents and managers who might be going to watch their children play the following morning.”
Following the Silent Weekend adults and children will be asked to complete surveys on www.lancashirefa.com about how the weekend went which will be used to decide whether the idea is taken further.