Book Review: Show Some Respect! (The Sound and the Fury of Junior Football) by Chris Kirkham

In the week just gone, the ugly side of football has once again been making the headlines. Firstly there was the news that Wayne Rooney has been handed a three game ban that will see him miss the entire Group Stage of England’s participation in next seasons UEFA European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.  Debate has raged as to whether he should still travel, in the hope that he could play in the knock-out stages. My stance is a simple one – don’t take him. His sending off was unnecessary and violent against Montenegro, and he should be punished by not being involved in the Finals at all. It would be a clear message to footballers, from juniors to professionals that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. The second incident took place in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division fixture between Chesham and Redditch United. United striker Josh McKenzie punched the referee leading to the abandonment of the game. This is an extreme and disturbing incident. The fact is that when it occurs at this level of football, you can be sure it will be translated down through the game all the way to junior football.

The FA has and is trying to combat the problems through its ‘Respect’ campaign, which was launched in 2008. The FA stated that, “…Respect is the collective responsibility of everyone involved in football to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place…” and set out a number of outcomes including:

•           Increase in numbers in terms referee recruitment and retention;

•           Improvement in On-Field discipline;

•           Reducing assaults on referees;

•           Enhancing the experience of the game;

•           Support of and commitment to the ‘Respect’ campaign.

As overall guardians of the game The FA have implemented the campaign at all levels of the game. In his book Show Some Respect!, Chris Kirkham looks at how “Respect” has attempted to address the issues and the progress being made at the grassroots level of football. Chris is ideally placed to write this book since he is a Qualified and experience Coach who has worked in the USA and in England with clubs including Manchester United, Hull City and Scarborough Town.

It is obvious from reading this publication that the author is passionate about the subject matter and this is backed up by his coaching experience and extensive research from not only the UK but around the world. Chris Kirkham’s aspiration that this publication becomes a must-read for those involved in junior football is to be applauded. Amongst the most invaluable sections within the book are the following:

•           What is the ‘Respect’ campaign;

•           The templates for clubs (for example in relation to codes of conduct);

•           Sites and Source Material for further reference

•           Statistics on the impact of the ‘Respect’ campaign.

If though this publication is to make itself a must-read and a point of reference for players, coaches, parents, referees and club officials, then there has to be changes in future editions. The author recognises this and the following points will be taken into account when producing a format that may be produced for a specific audience (for examples, an edition just for coaches):

1.          Page listings for each chapter for the contents page is a must for quick access.

2.         In reducing the book to around 100 pages, the publication becomes easier to be used as a reference guide and allows it to be more focused on the advice, guidance, issues and examples that need to be put across.

3.         The various examples of crowd trouble, player reaction and referee abuse could be reduced since many of them simply reiterate the same point again and again.

4.         By reducing the examples the book size can be brought down and therefore chapters become tighter and more focused. There are occasions when the narrative jumps from topic to topic, leaving the reader unsure of the thread of what is being written.

My recommendation is that these changes will be of benefit to the book. However, even in its current guise, this publication is about getting all those involved in grassroots football to take a look at themselves and assess whether they indeed respect our national game and how their future attitudes and behaviours can help to improve football going forward.