The behaviour of parents on the sidelines at underage football games has been brought sharply into focus by the decision of one Donegal schoolboys club to temporarily postpone all club activities and stop partaking in games.
Mulroy Academy, which caters for underage football in Fanad and the surrounding areas, held an emergency meeting last weekend to discuss a number of recent issues.
The meeting came after one of the club’s coaches, who was also the club secretary, resigned due to an increased workload and a culmination of recent events off the field.
Mulroy Academy chairman, Sean Canning, has confirmed that Mulroy Academy has postponed all club activities for a period of two weeks.
As a result, the club will not hold any training sessions or fulfil any fixtures during this period.
“It’s a decision we have not taken lightly, but we need some time now to see exactly where we go as a club,” he said.
Mr. Canning said there were a number of issues of concern for the club’s committee, but the behaviour of parents on the sidelines at matches, and their attitude towards the coaches, needed immediate addressing.
He said there was not one major incident, but a host of different issues that were of concern.
He added that the decision of one of the club’s most experienced coaches to resign was a very disappointing development.
“It reflects very badly when someone who has put his heart and soul into this club takes the decision to step away,” Mr. Canning added.
The chairman was keen to stress that the concerns related to the behaviour of just a minority of parents of children playing with Mulroy Academy. He added that at no time had any coach been physically abused, although he said the club took the decision to act now in order to avoid such a scenario.
Mr. Canning said coaches have been criticised over team selections and team formations.
“At times there is constant questioning of their team selection,” he said.
“Coaches are entitled to their private lives as well, yet they have to put up with text messages and phone calls every day, at any time.”
The Mulroy chairman said he has noticed a major change in the attitude of people on the sidelines at schoolboy level in recent years. There has been a greater involvement from adults across all age groups, yet the competitive nature of the game has also increased.
“I have no doubt it’s the same in other sports as well,” he pointed out.
Mulroy Academy caters for players from U6 up to U16 and following their emergency meeting last Friday night, they informed the Donegal Schoolboys Association of their decision.
Since the weekend, Mr. Canning said they have been contacted by a number of other clubs who have offered their support for their decision to postpone club activities.
“We have a duty to look after our young players and their coaches,” he said.
“So we can now take our time and review our club code of conduct and maybe draw up proper disciplinary procedures to deal with any unacceptable behaviour.”