SOMERSET Football Association has confirmed that the opening months of the 2023-2024 season have seen an unprecedented increase in disciplinary cases.

In fact, the FA said it is the worst start to a season they have ever seen.

According to the FA, discipline cases are up by 50% compared to the same time last year and the number of abandoned matches is double that of 12 months ago.

Season 2021/2022 and Season 2022/2023 were already two of the worst in terms of discipline and now the FA is seeing a worrying trend in the opposite direction.  

Somerset FA CEO Jonathan Pike said: "Most worryingly, a large number of these cases are in youth football. Cases involving youth players and referees have risen by an alarming 66% from this time in 2022.

"The main offenders in youth football are adults, be they coaches, managers, club assistant referees, spectators or parents.

"Young people in football, regardless of their role, deserve to enjoy the game free from abuse and negativity, and should expect adults to behave in a manner that sets a positive example."

It would be wrong to think this is restricted to the youth game. The rise in indiscipline is spread across all aspects of grassroots football, from mini soccer, youth football, adult male and adult female.

Pike added: "The knock-on effect is of course felt across all areas of the game, not least in refereeing. Recruiting referees is in itself a difficult task, however for those who come through our courses the environment they face is hardly conducive to retaining them.

"This is even more crucial when the referee is a child themselves. Sadly, we’ve had more incidents of adults abusing new or young referees, with young referees being left in tears by the conduct of adults."

The FA will now begin more detailed work with clubs in Somerset to reinforce codes of conduct and adopt a zero-tolerance policy for poor behaviour.

This includes robust disciplinary procedures and sanctions for those who fail to adhere to these standards and could include the cancellation of fixtures. 

And CEO Pike added that everyone involved in the sport to ask themselves am I contributing to the problem?

He said: "I would ask everyone involved in the game, whatever your role, your age, the level you are involved at to take a moment to reflect on their actions and interactions, both on and off the field.

"Simply by taking ownership of our actions and behaving responsibly and decently, we can prevent these incidents taking place.

It is for all of us to do our bit and do what is right and, if we do, the collective response will see us return to everyone taking part in the game we all love in the way we want it to be."