20/04/2024

A number of incidents against officials have Football Australia sounding the alarm.(Image: Izhar Khan).

Football Australia have put A-league players, coaches, officials and fans on notice following recent high-profile incidents.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson has put A-League players, coaches, officials and fans on notice, signalling sanctions for those that engage in behaviour that puts referees at risk of harm.

The intervention has come as a result of recent incidents that have caused extreme concern for the organisation, leading to the CEO’s strongly worded statement.

“Every individual, from grassroots volunteers to professional players and match officials, deserves to participate in football in a safe and respectful environment,” Johnson said on Tuesday.

“The behaviour under scrutiny goes against the values of the sport. Abuse or misconduct towards any of our staff or officials is unacceptable and contradicts the spirit of football. We have a zero-tolerance policy and are dedicated to creating a positive experience for all.”

Johnson’s comments follow the recent a string of high-profile incidents, which includes the explosive comments from Western Sydney Wanderers’ head coach Marko Rudan’s press conference and Melbourne City midfielder Tolgay Arslan alleged verbal on-field confrontation with an referee more recently.

The comments also come with a noticeable, ongoing trend of referee abuse which is becoming a significant challenge throughout all levels of the sport.

“Annually, we lose 40 per cent of our registered match officials, which translates to around 4,200 individuals leaving their roles at all levels of the game. Despite the growing participation in football and the success of our national teams, our base of 11,000 officials has not expanded since 2011,” he said.

“This environment is unsustainable and contradicts everything we stand for. Our National Code of Conduct and Ethics, which applies across all levels of the game, is designed to combat such challenges, ensuring that football in Australia is enjoyable and safe for everyone involved.”

Whilst Johnson didn’t comment on any specific incident, he emphasised the organisation’s commitment to addressing the ongoing issue.

“We must all work together – across all levels of the game – to improve the culture surrounding football. This includes fostering respect and understanding for the vital role match officials play in our sport,” he said.

“Let us come together to address these challenges and reinforce a positive culture in our game. Our collective efforts are crucial in ensuring that football continues to be a source of joy for all.”

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) released a statement, with their independent chair Stephen Conroy calling for respect towards referees.

“The APL supports Football Australia’s call for a unified stand for respect and safety across Australian football. Match officials play a vital role in all levels of football and APL is committed to working to improve the culture surrounding them at the League level,” Conroy said.

“In regards to recent events involving match officials at A-Leagues matches,” Stephen Conroy said.

“APL is unable to comment on Football Australia run disciplinary processes stemming from recent events, however, clearly we don’t condone poor behaviour towards league match officials who should be able to work in a safe and respectful environment.”

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