Respect Program

Information for Federations, Referees and Clubs

What is it?

A programme originally put together by the FA to tackle 3 concerns:

  • The abuse of players and referees by parents and spectators.
  • Too many games not having a qualified referee.
  • The number of referees leaving the game because of abuse.

How was it developed?

A package of measures was trialled with 7 County FAs.

What measures were introduced?

  • Roped off areas for parents and spectators.
  • Signed codes of conduct for players, parents, coaches, and referees.
  • Clear sanctions for breaches of the codes.
  • Only allowing the captain to speak to the referee.


  • The referee is to work with the captain to manage the players and the game.
  • Pre-game chat.
  • Must deal firmly with players who show dissent.
  • Remove coaches who berate an official or opponent.


On 21 September 2008 the NZ Football Referees Committee strongly recommended the introduction of the RESPECT programme into NZ.

Anecdotal reports from members indicated that there is a problem at Federation level. Data from a US1 survey showed that 30% of referees who left did so because of abuse. A number of cases of abuse and threatened assault in Central attracted media coverage.

This was introduced in the 2008-9 NZFC and followed in Federation competitions for the 2009 season.

From the original data received, the NZFRC recommend the principles of the RESPECT programme be adopted. They included:

  • Review of Reg. 7 (Misconduct) regarding players who are cautioned for dissent or sent off for abuse.
  • Clubs to agree to follow the programme and that this be a condition of entry.
  • Referees to work with team captains to help manage the game.
  • Handshake Protocol.

NZF Board

NZF introduced the RESPECT Programme to help raise standards and address abusive behavior in the game at all levels.

As part of the RESPECT Programme, for all competitions it has been decided to introduce both the initiative that involves the referee working with the team captain on the day to manage the players and the game effectively and the pre-match fair play handshake initiative.

Working with the Team Captain

  1. The referee will work with the team captain in order to manage the players and the game effectively.  Note the guidelines in the Laws of the Game which state that the captain has no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game but he has a degree of responsibility for the behavior of his team.
  2. The referee must control the game by applying the Laws of the Game, and deal firmly with any open show of dissent by players e.g. not move away from the incident, but stay and deal with it.
  3. The referee should used a stepped approach where appropriate to managing players e.g. roadblocks 1) free kick, 2) free kick with quiet word, 3) free kick with admonition (this is when the referee should consider using the captain to get the message across), 4) yellow card.
  4. This stepped approach does not negate the fact that the referee has the authority within the Laws of the Game to issue disciplinary sanctions without recourse to the captain.
  5. Players may appeal for a decision (e.g. a throw-in) but it is important that the referee distinguishes these from an act of dissent which should be punished with a caution.
  6. Even if the captain is some way from an incident when the referee feels he needs him involved  in a discussion with a player, the referee will call the captain over rather than using any other player.
  7. These guidelines should be seen as additional preventative tool in order to help referees manage the game more effectively.  The key is to use the captains in a more visible way, where appropriate.

Fair Play Handshake Protocol

The following protocol should be applied where possible:

  1. The starting eleven from both teams together with the referee(s) should take part in the handshake.
  2. Each team should line up on the side of the halfway line.
  3. The Home team, led by their captain, then walks to shake hands with the referee(s), and then the away team.  Once each Home team player has finished shaking hands with the last away team player they disperse.
  4. Once the last home team player has passed by, the Away team then follows their captain  to shake hands with the referee(s).
  5. Once the handshake has been completed the referee then tosses the coin.

It may be difficult to implement this protocol in every case, we would ask that referees do what the reasonably can to ensure its implementation.