Northern NSW Football announces Zero Tolerance policy

Northern NSW Football is aiming to improve safety and reduce abuse suffered by referees.

NORTHERN NSW Football (NNSWF) has announced its Zero Tolerance policy as a part of targeted measures to put an end to match official abuse in its competitions across the region.

The Zero Tolerance policy will be in force for all Northern NSW Football competitions.

In 2024, through the Match Official Support Standards – Zero Tolerance policy, NNSWF will introduce measures targeted at stamping out abuse and creating a safer, supportive and welcoming environment for match officials in its competitions.

These initiatives will be part of a three-pillar strategy to implement Zero Tolerance; Clear Messaging for Everyone in the Game, Tangible Support for Match Officials and Tougher Sanctions.

CEO Peter Haynes said NNSWF was fully committed to changing the culture towards match officials in its premier competitions which would require a whole game approach to changing behaviours, attitudes and actions of players, coaches and spectators.

“The announcement of this policy is the culmination of more than six months of work from my team at Northern NSW Football,” Haynes said.

“Enough is enough.

“The time for talk is over.

“It is time for action and we are totally committed to this course of action.

“One of the hardest things to do in any walk of life be it sport or business is changing culture.

“But we are fully committed to taking a lead role on this and driving the cultural change we want to see in our sport in our region.

NNSWF General Manager Referee Growth and Development Brad Carlin said the policy would help to provide more support and a better experience for match officials in the region.

“This policy will allow extra education to be given to match officials on how to deal with issues when they arise,” Carlin said.

“It will also provide additional support to match officials through multiple avenues including the new position of Referee Wellbeing and Support Officer that will be implemented to provide immediate and ongoing welfare support.”

NNSWF General Manager Football Operations Liam Bentley said tougher sanctions would help to stamp out match official abuse in the region.

“Zero Tolerance means exactly that,” Bentley said.

“Implementing tougher sanctions will be an important deterrent that will also serve to make an example of those who continue to engage in match official abuse in the 2024 season.”

More than 50 percent of Northern NSW Football premier competitions youth match officials stopped refereeing in the last twelve months.

At least 30 of those quit mid-season specifically because of the abuse they received while refereeing.

While a number of these initiatives will have an immediate impact on the match day experience for NNSWF match officials, the policy aims to drive genuinely long-term cultural change on the pitch, on the sidelines and online, to create an atmosphere where all clubs, along with Northern NSW Football, have a Zero Tolerance approach to abuse against match officials.

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