HARTY: On RTPs (Raving Touchline Parents)

APOLOGIES to the Luddite section of the readership, but I'm going to start this week's column by going interactive.

For those of you who can, please take a look at the following internet link: http://www.thefa.com/Respect2Rays

For those of you who can't, the above is a short information film made by the Football Association starring the legendary Ray Winstone, and depicts the problems that RTPs, or "raving touchline parents", are causing in the game today.

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A shocking statistic is that since the start of last season, i.e. August 2007, well over 5,000 officials of youth matches have given-up refereeing because of abuse, verbal and sometimes physical, they have received from the touchline.

In my seven years in youth football I have seen it first hand. It's not pleasant, and in almost every case the protagonists should clearly know better.

Even at youth level it's still the beautiful game, and passions and emotions run high, but some things are totally unacceptable.

I'm sure there are people I know who will watch the link and it will prick their consciences and perhaps strike a chord, but by the same token there are other people far more guilty who would watch, with or without their blinkers on, and still not realise what they're doing.

Perhaps it's time for the clubs to get tough?

However good a boy, or girl, is, if their parents' behaviour on the touchline crosses the boundaries, perhaps an initial suspension, or even asking the child to leave the club as the ultimate punishment, is the way forward.

But then this is where the clubs have to all sing from the same hymn sheet. If a parent is that bad, if every club refuses to sign the child on unless the behaviour changes, or even insists the parent doesn't attend matches, then problems could all but disappear.

But if you get clubs wanting to win at all costs, the problem children might end-up finding a club prepared to put up with the RTPs.

Perhaps the winds of change are already afoot, as one of the top youth sides in the county has this week parted company with a player because of the behaviour of his father, and this is a club that previously had a reputation, albeit unfair in my opinion, as having a win- at-all-costs edict.

Let's hope others follow their bold example.

On the subject of the FA, a number of you have enquired as to the outcome of my recent appeal process with the football authorities.

The result is probably a microcosm of today's society. To all neutral observers, the youngster in question clearly wasn't under 14, and being a visitor to this country he had no official form of identification apart from a passport number which appeared on his signing-on forms.

As far as the FA were concerned, no-one outside his club had seen this passport but they could not verify its authenticity, and that of his date of birth, because of the Data Protection Act, therefore they had to take the club at their word.

Ken Benham informs me that steps are being taken this summer to tighten-up the regulations to stop this happening again.

Just need to comment on the latest ludicrous internet rumour that Albion's Adam Virgo has a clause in his contract that says he has to play if fit.

If this was the case then he has the greatest agent since James Bond.

Seriously, no footballer in the history of the game could have made such a demand.

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