The boss of the Maccabi Southern Football League has this week urged Jewish footballers to show more respect towards referees, as well as demanding an improvement in players’ discipline.
Speaking ahead of the start of the new season, David Wolff wants to avoid a repeat of events that blighted last season – which included a match being abandoned after a mass 22-player brawl.
And believing such instances are driving away referees from the game, he said: “The M(S)FL has always prided itself on the fact that most of its games are covered by qualified officials. We want to maintain this standard and can only do so if they are shown respect.
“Respect works both ways and I am sure they, in turn, will offer courtesy to the players. However, when this breaks down problems arise. So I would ask everyone to make a concerted effort to raise the standards. I have heard from various sources that dissent and arguments in the league turn players and referees away and I hope we can reverse that trend.
“I also hope that we can strive to improve on discipline. Most of the cautions are for dissent and the dismissals are rarely violent. Nevertheless, the amount of cautions need to lessen and I look forward to seeing an improvement.”
Also hoping for a good relationship between players and referees, MSFL referee secretary Martin Fox says: “We’ll be promoting the respect campaign again this season. The refs will speak to the managers and players beforehand and we’re all looking forward to the season. I don’t think indiscipline was any worse last season, but there were one or two high-profile incidents.”
Forty one teams will be taking part in the league – a drop on last year – though the declining figures are to be expected according to Wolff. He said: “We still have a viable vehicle, but of course are hopeful that the numbers will swell again in the years ahead.
“We recognise that 11-a-side football nationwide isn’t as popular as it used to be and that more people are playing small-sided football. There are probably several reasons for this, the main ones I believe being the spiralling costs and that professional teams playing with staggered kick-off times means people with season tickets want to support their team.
“But we’re welcoming three new teams [this season] and I hope they and all the other members have a successful and enjoyable season. I suppose success is judged by winning the divisions or getting promoted, but not everyone can achieve this so enjoyment can also be found by being a part of something that is so big in our community.”
Disclosing plans of potentially sending a team to Israel, he added: “Now that the Representative Match programme belongs to the past, we are looking to see if we can take a team to Israel for the experience of visiting and playing in a country that is our heritage.”