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Christians in Football Director tells parents to "grow up"

The Chairman of the Surrey youth league, Graham Ekins, has written to all its clubs warning that the violence is out of control.

It's reported that over one weekend a parent threatened to stab a referee, a volunteer linesman was headbutted and young players threatened to smash up a changing room, having been spurred on by their managers.

Keith Hammond, Director of Christians in Football and FA coach, told Premier's News Hour it is deeply saddening, but should not be surprising.

"From a Christian point of view, this is what the world is like. This is why I became a Christian more than 40 years ago; I wanted something better."

Mr Hammond explained what the Football Association and local leagues are already doing to combat the issue of violence on the touchline.

"They're urging all teams - all youth teams and adult teams - to have codes of conduct. There's a respect programme going on for respecting referees and there are barriers put around pitches to stop parents getting anywhere near the pitch.

"The coaches should be qualified and taught how to coach properly. Clubs will be given misconduct charges, will be fined and maybe banned from playing."

He also has a challenge for parents who take their children to play.

"It's a game of football for goodness sake, and it's children who are playing for a delight. But the desire to want to win at all costs is one of the real issues. So often parents want to live their dreams through their children.

"We need to not see it as war, and see it as it is - the beautiful game. Win or lose, we are honouring the other team.

"We've got to grow up, become adults and respect each other in the game we love, and I hope people will see this and youth football will clean itself up and it will truly be the beautiful game."

Allan Jones, a Christian referee, has been outlining his experiences of bad behaviour on the touchlines.

Speaking to Premier he described how officiating can be very dangerous. He said: "Somebody chased a person with a crook lock from their car and if he'd have caught him he would have battered him I think.

"It is a serious issue. Even in junior football I've had people come up to me threatening to rip my head off and that's with children under 12 years of age there. It's just totally crazy."

The warning from Mr Ekins to youth teams in Surrey is believed to reference a tragic incident in the Netherlands in 2013, in which six teenagers and one of their fathers kicked a linesman to death after a junior match.

Mr Ekins said those involved in violence at kids games should be "ashamed" and urged witnesses to anyone being assaulted or threatened with violence to call the police.

He suggested the league could withdraw all referees if the problem continued.

Listen to Keith Hammond speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour.

Listen to Allan Jones speaking to Premier's Alex Dibble.

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