No yelling, no loud talking and certainly no abusive language – though the odd cheer and applause is allowed.

A radical approach to developing a culture of respect in soccer will see all players, coaches and, especially, parents and supporters, participating and watching football games on Sydney’s north shore in near-silence next weekend.

The North Shore Football Association, with 33 clubs, 1200 teams and 17,000 members, is for the second time staging Silence on Sidelines, an initiative designed to foster positivity and awareness in Australia’s most popular and fastest-growing sport.

U11 and U12 girls from the Chatswood Rangers during training at Thomson Park in Artarmon. They will be among players from 1200 teams who will play in near-silence next weekend. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The two-day Code of Conduct promotion by Australia’s second largest sports club comes after “ugly” incidents at amateur football clubs, including a brawl between two teenage teams from the Arncliffe Aurora and Pendle Hill clubs.

But more pervasive is a habit of confusing vocal interjections from the sidelines, said NSFA president David Watson.

“There are no Nike talent scouts here, it’s not the World Cup, it’s fun,” he said. “If you don’t have a focus on a positive culture you have to deal with situations that can go ugly.”

Referees, too, were deterred from wanting to oversee games because of negative feedback, possibly influenced by what is seen as excusable behaviour in international games, he said.

Karan Kanchan whose daughter plays in the Girls U11 and U12’s Chatswood Rangers at Thomson Park in Artarmon. Photo: Wolter Peeters

“If you’re passionate about football and you see one of the top coaches screaming at a referee, what does that teach our children?”

Efforts will be self-policed and those who break the rules will be asked to make a gold coin donation to charity. The code says parents must applaud good performance and efforts from all individuals and teams; congratulate all participants on their performance regardless of the game’s outcome and respect the decisions of officials.

Matthew McKay coaches girls’ under-11 and under-12 Chatswood Rangers teamsin Artarmon. He said weekend matches can be a “cacophony”, with a wall of noise affecting children’s concentration.

“They go along to training and they learn their skills and they should have the opportunity to go out and put it into practice without too many other instructions,” he said.

Matthew McKay coaches girls U9, U11 and U12’s Chatswood Rangers at Thomson Park in Artarmon. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Karan Kanchan, father of Kiara Kanchan, 10, who plays for the Chatswood Rangers 11s and 12s, said he believes the initiative is over-the-top.

“I think it’s always fun to listen to cheering,” he said. “There are a few instances that have given the game a bad name but I don’t think that should be reason to stop the noise from the sidelines.”

But while while his daughter said she will miss being cheered on, she admitted that even her closest supporters can be distracting.

“Parents cheering you to do something is sometimes quite annoying,” Kiara said.


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