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Football Association's National Silent Support Weekend will ban shouting and Kent's youth football leagues are taking part

Thousands of youth football games will be watched in silence this weekend as the FA trials a scheme in which spectators and coaches must only clap.

Shouting, talking to players, jeering or any form of criticism will all be banned under the temporary rules being applied to the first National Silent Support Weekend - as football officials attempt to tackle touchline behaviour and the pressure sometimes placed on players in children's games.

Coaches and parents will be banned from shouting, clapping and cheering this weekend. Image: iStock.
Coaches and parents will be banned from shouting, clapping and cheering this weekend. Image: iStock.

Instead both squads and their supporters are being asked to adopt positive applause, which must be directed at 'good play from both teams'.

The move comes just weeks after hundreds of children's football games in Merseyside were called off over one weekend in October, following what was described as 'multiple incidents of inappropriate and threatening behaviour' towards referees and match officials.

Hundreds of junior football leagues across the country, running games for both girls' and boys' teams this Saturday and Sunday, are signed up to take part in the pilot event that could see more than 10,000 games played in near silence.

In Kent more than 10 youth leagues have agreed to join the Silent Support Weekend including the Kent Youth League, Kent Girls Football League, Medway District Youth League, North Kent Youth League, Maidstone Invicta Primary League and the East Kent Youth League.

The FA says it wants to remove the pressure often placed on young players
The FA says it wants to remove the pressure often placed on young players

Messages and social media posts have been circulated among teams involved encouraging them to share widely with parents and spectators ahead of the weekend's fixtures.

The FA, which is coordinating efforts, says the aim of silencing those standing on touchlines is to both reduce the pressure on youth players at a grassroots level and give them a better opportunity and environment in which to find their own voice.

And with an emphasis on fun - rather than winning at all costs - officials hope to create 'a developmental experience' where all young players involved in the sport wil be able to play without pressure and improve their own communication skills on the pitch that sometimes risk being drowned out by the noise from those watching.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: "The National Silent Support Weekend is designed to promote respect in youth football. It gives players an opportunity to focus fully on their game and not be distracted by the touchline.

"As a grassroots coach, I have taken part in trials and seen the benefits first hand. It was so well received by the players that we have worked with County FAs to offer the first National Silent Support weekend. We hope a large number of leagues and clubs across the country will join in and provide a fun environment for young players to find their voice."

While there will be no heavy handed approach used to enforce the temporary rules, which are designed to get those watching children's games to think about their own behaviour, any spectator who doesn't abide by the FA's wider Code of Conduct can be asked to leave the side of the pitch.

After this weekend's silent games, a link to an online nationwide survey will be released by the Football Association so that it can get spectators and managers to share their experiences.

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