Jim Lyon - Blame players for many things but some problems lie closer to home

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

I would be lying if I claimed I had never aired my frustrations towards a referee.

To varying degrees we all have, I am sure.

Never, though, have I felt the need or desire to threaten physical violence to an official, let alone carry it out.

Which is why a few recent incidences baffle me, sicken me and make me question what goes through people’s heads – apart from not a lot.

Dundee United forward Nadir Ciftci this week got a two-game ban for accosting a linesman.

The initial citing was for seizing hold of the poor man by his neck.

This was later replaced with “placing an open hand into the lower area of the assistant referee’s throat” - which is obviously a whole lot better, I am sure you will agree.

He will now sit out 180 minutes of football which prompted a former referee to offer: “I would say the punishment certainly doesn’t fit the crime.”

I would say he is probably right.

Such behaviour may be extreme but it is also not so unbelievable.

So much verbal abuse of officials goes on now it is almost the inevitable next step – and that is quite a terrifying thing to say.

The incident which disturbed me most, though, took place in Manchester.

As the referee was making his way back to the dressing-room a woman twice spat in his face while her husband grabbed him by the throat.

As bad as that might sound it gets worse.

They were the parents of a boy who was playing in an under-nines match at the time and the referee was himself only 16.

It is almost beyond belief but, unfortunately, not isolated.

An almost identical event happened at a Leamington Juniors Minor Saturday under-eights fixture earlier this year and I am sure there are many others to be chronicled if one were to search the internet.

From my own experience, I remember a time some years ago when I lived next to a school in Kettering.

Returning from shopping and unloading the car we could hear the usual squeaky voices calling for the ball in the next-door playing field.

But above them rose a distinctly adult shout of ‘break his ******* legs’.

A quick peek over the fence told the lads involved in the game were certainly no more than 15.

It is not just a football disease either.

I have seen fighting parents pulled apart at a youth rugby match and a team manager remove his frustrations at a run out decision by repeatedly punching a pavilion wall during an under-13s cricket match.

It is absolutely true that children copy their heroes and what someone like Mr Ciftci does in the professional game will be mimicked in playgrounds in the following days and weeks.

But children also follow the example and learn right from wrong from those bringing them up.

There is a thing called parental responsibility and instead of always blaming the overpaid and spoilt sportsmen for the ills of the world, in many cases the issues lie a lot closer to home.