I’m sure that at some stage in your playing or coaching career you have witnessed inappropriate behaviour from spectators. Regardless of the size of club or your crowd, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the cart.
We need to recognise that there is a fine balance between an enthusiastic and exuberant crowd and support that becomes negative or over-powering. In extreme cases spectators can be verbally abusive or physically aggressive, spoiling the game for everyone.
So how does you club counter bad behaviour?
I suggest you have a code of conduct that covers the behaviour of members and parents. This can clearly layout the expectations of the club for behaviour by members, parents/family members attending and for non-members.
What behaviours will not be tolerated (for example)
- using bad language
- harassing or ridiculing players, coaches, officials or other spectators
- making racist, religious, sexist or other inappropriate comments to players, coaches, officials or other spectators
- any threatening behaviour or physical altercation between spectators and players, coaches, officials or other spectators
- putting undue pressure on children, berating them or putting down their performance
How you as a club will promote good behaviour (for example)
- Provide members, their parents and other sporting personnel access to a clear Code of Behaviour and make clear what is expected and the consequences of non-compliance.
- Prominently display conditions of entry to grounds and facilities (specifically targeting non-members) and by requiring parents to abide by club rules
- Reinforce messages of fair and respectful behaviour by displaying signs and posters around the club, on the club website, in newsletters and through other club communications
- Encourage coaches and officials to complete training to develop their skills and confidence in dealing with potential issues
- Encourage the reporting of incidents and investigate inappropriate behaviours
The biggest challenge you will face is enforcing this policy when many of your spectators may not be club members. If you can find a way of binding parents to your code, work closely with visiting clubs to agree to actively manage any issues and clearly publicise your expectations at points of entry, you are well on the way to stamping out potential issues.