Northumberland Football League warning over 'hooligan' parents

Generic picture of children playing football
The league said the behaviour had been the "worst" it had seen in its history

A junior football league has branded some parents "hooligans" and warned they face being banned after a rise in abuse towards players and referees.

The Northumberland Football League said teenage officials had been "confronted" and fights had broken out in car parks.

It has issued new rules on behaviour and added that fixtures would be cancelled if incidents continued.

General manager Ian Coates feared it was "only a matter of time" until a child was "assaulted by an adult".

The league said recent behaviour had been the "worst" it had ever seen.

Lee Scott and Ian Coates
Lee Scott and Ian Coates have hit out at the behaviour of some parents

The rules apply for teams in the under 7s to under 10s mixed league, girls' league under 7s to under 11s, and the boys' under 7 to under 9 league.

It will be enforced at the league's pitches at Blakelaw Park, Bullocksteads and Goals at High Gosforth Park in Newcastle, and Cramlington Sporting Club and Longhoughton Community Centre in Northumberland.

Twelve volunteers supervise the junior games for the league at the weekend.

League secretary Lee Scott said to say some parents were acting like children "would be an insult to children".

"They have duty of care to the young people when they come to football games whether that's their children, other players or the referees," he told BBC Radio Newcastle.

"Unfortunately at the minute they're behaving like hooligans."

'Unable to sleep'

Referee Nathan Sherratt, 27, from County Durham, said he backed the measures as he felt teenage officials were being put at risk.

"When you've got somebody under 18 who's refereeing a junior football match and if they're getting verbal abuse, that's child abuse," he said.

"You've got children not sleeping the night before games because they're worried what's going to happen with particular teams.

"Young people worry that they are putting themselves at risk for something they love to do and I'd go as far as to say it's only a matter of time until a spectator kills an official."

Governing body the Northumberland Football Association said more than 3,000 matches, including adult and youth games, had been played across all age groups this season so far.

It has raised 80 misconduct charges and added that 97% of matches had taken place without any incidents reported.

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