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Tackling the growing issue of behaviour on and off the field of play?

West Kent Sport & Wellbeing’s Publishing Editor Steve Rowley looks at behaviour on and off the field of play in his monthly comment column.

Over the last few weeks, I have been made aware of a few incidents on and off the field of play, particularly when it comes to grassroots football.

Most recently, trouble started after a men’s Sevenoaks Charity Cup match and whilst the matter is in the hands of Kent Police, the Kent FA and the Sevenoaks & District Football League, the details and the severity of the matter remain closely guarded. What I can tell you is people were arrested and people were hospitalised.

I am parent whose children play sports on a regular basis. To imagine that one day I might get a phone call to say ‘your child has been involved in a post-match incident’ is not something that I would like to experience. And that includes a call from the police to say, “we’ve detained your child!”

So, what is happening? What is being done about this hatred? The Football Association have launched their ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign with the subtitle ‘Together we can end hate in football’. They state that in grassroots football, hate is the expression of discrimination through verbal abuse, insulting gestures and prejudicial behaviour, however they do not include physical assault o and off the field.

The discrimination they’re targeting is words and actions that are racist, sexist, or homophobic in nature, and they will act against those who ruin the game for others. The action comes in the form of punishments for those players, clubs and supporters who behave in racist, sexist, or homophobic ways. The punishments include players being removed from play; players being suspended; clubs having points deducted; clubs having their ground closed; and spectators being asked to leave.

This is interesting because the other incident which happened recently was in a Kent FA Womens Plate match and it involved transphobia verbal abuse directed at a player during a match. Again, the full details around this are incomplete, but I believe the matter is in the capable hands of the Kent FA. Whilst this latest FA campaign does address prejudice head-on, which is great news for the game, it does not address physical assault on or off the field of play side.

This is a criminal offence and if reported to the police, they will deal with it separately to the FA. We all need to report all kinds of abuse to both the Kent FA and Kent Police, and then maybe, just maybe, people will get the message and stop ruining the game loved by so many.

To stay updated on the progress and actions taken, I advise you to follow official statements from the Kent FA as they work to address and rectify the issues raised by these specific incidents.

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