Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Sideline Champs: Sporting action against 'ugly' fans

This is how it should be: The Pt Chev Pirates Under-9 league team have fun in Auckland yesterday giving Harvey Vuna an early shower to celebrate his birthday. Photo / Michael Craig
This is how it should be: The Pt Chev Pirates Under-9 league team have fun in Auckland yesterday giving Harvey Vuna an early shower to celebrate his birthday. Photo / Michael Craig

Sports authorities are to intervene in schools and clubs that suffer sideline abuse and violence.

Starting this month, a scheme called "One Team" will be trialled at six clubs and two schools at Auckland's North Harbour and will include rugby, football and netball.

It comes as the Herald on Sunday launches a far-reaching campaign to support good behaviour on the sidelines of sports fields and courts and to back the work being done in the winter sports codes to combat increasing numbers of "ugly" fans.

The paper today publishes a Sideline Code, encouraging supporters to cheer loud, cheer fair and cheer proud.

And it has swung its support in behind initiatives like NZ Rugby's new Applaud campaign, encouraging fair play in U13 rugby, and the Rugby League Pledge.

Ambassadors including injured All Black star Richard Kahui, Silver Fern captain Casey Kopua, league's Manu "The Beast" Vatuvei and World Cup soccer star Ivan Vicelich are all joining the call for sideline supporters to set an example to kids.

Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns asks: "Are you a parent your children can be proud of? Sideline Champs will make sure you are."

The One Team educational programmes, backed by NZ Sport, are being run by the Greater Auckland Coaching Unit (GACU) in response to inappropriate sideline behaviour displayed by adults at children's sporting events. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out nationally.

Increasing reports of players, coaches and referees being attacked physically or verbally at rugby and soccer matches have prompted a call for action.

"In the past there has been plenty of help and support for athletes and coaches but parents are the missing link," said GACU director Andy Rogers. "One of the reasons for poor sideline behaviour is a lot of adults are volunteers and don't really understand the concept of player development. People have to learn to understand the impact their actions have on kids.

"Research points to kids dropping out of sport because they are being put under too much pressure to be winners," Rogers said. "I have still to meet a kids' team that doesn't want to win - but it should not be at any cost."

Simon Walters, senior lecturer at the School of Sport and Recreation at AUT University, welcomed the interventions. "A lot of kids will leave sport if they are being continually yelled at by parents. Children's sport is becoming too intense, too early."

Stevie Baxter, of Auckland Football, said similar schemes had proved successful overseas. "The idea is not to tell parents how to behave or what to do, because that doesn't work. We have to change the behaviours of coaches and parents through education."

Adele Lendich, CEO of Netball North Harbour, said she had recommended two schools. "This is an exciting new project that could benefit the whole of New Zealand sport. We are happy to be on board."

If you see remarkable behaviour on the sidelines this winter - good or bad - please get in touch at news@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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