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Respect is due in football
Top referee Chris Foy
Top referee Chris Foy is a big supporter of the campaign

You can't beat a game of football, whether you're a player, spectator, or referee.

But there is a growing trend across the country threatening to ruin the sport.

Abusive behaviour, aggression and racist comments are driving people away from the game in their droves, according to Mal Lee, founder of the Don't X The Line campaign.

The initiative was set up in 2003 to help promote an environment for fair play and educate people of all ages the importance of respect and tolerance in grass roots football.

"I have been involved with junior football for many years and have increasingly witnessed the abusive and aggressive behaviour, and racist comments that now plague our junior leagues," Lee says.

Lee was convinced the campaign was needed having witnessed the following on local pitches:

  • children crying because parents were fighting with rival parents

  • referees abandoning games and never officiating again because of threats and abusive comments directed at them

  • committee members standing down because of aggressive behaviour by so-called friendly supporters

    606: DEBATE
    Mark Ashenden
    Lee adds: "Walking across a local park one Sunday and listening to a few abusive parents watching a junior league game, I thought it was high time something was done."

    "We must protect our children and referees, and bring back sportsmanship and fair play within our junior and youth football."

    Lee is based in Merseyside and has received extensive support from a number of clubs, including Everton and Liverpool. Support is spreading across the globe.

    This initiative follows a BBC Five Live investigation into junior football last year that found many parents withdrawing their children from teams because of the trouble and a big shortage of grassroots referees.

    The FA's Director of Football Development Trevor Brooking said at the time: "It is a big concern and it's something we have to link in with the new coaching strategy. We've got to embarrass the parents."

    Many more clubs, organisations and celebrities are all realising how important these issues are and are jumping on board to provide their backing to 'Don't X The Line'.

    Check out the campaign's website for further details and see how you can get involved.

    You can get hold of a wristband to show your support for this brilliant campaign and don't miss the competition to win football kit for your team.

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