A MAN’S threat of violence against a linesman and a woman’s verbal abuse towards a youngster marred a children’s football tournament on the Isle of Wight over the Easter holiday.

The incidents, at the Isle of Wight Junior Football Festival, held at Newport’s Seaclose Park over the weekend, stained the integrity of the popular annual tournament, which has been running for 30 years.

Referees’ reports are being prepared for the Hampshire FA into events that shocked onlooking parents and many children watching and playing in two respective matches.

In an U14s match between Bembridge and Bromley Invictas, a man, understood to be a parent, threatened a linesman with violence.

An eyewitness said: “The linesman came on and spoke to the referee about a spectator.

“The linesman said he’d asked a man who was standing on, or near to, the edge of the pitch to move back and go behind a rope.

“The spectator responded by saying to him ‘talk to me again and I’ll knock you out’.

“The referee approached this man, argued with him for about a minute, and the spectator left.

“Meanwhile, all those boys and their parents had to witness all this. I thought it was a disgrace.”

In a separate incident in an U12s match between Newport Youth and Sandown and Lake Eagles, a woman, also believed to be a parent, walked on to the pitch and was abusive to an 11-year-old player.

Another eyewitness said: “The woman should have been ejected from the site for her disgusting behaviour.

“She got to within yards of the child concerned and swore at him before she was ushered away.

“The boy was very scared. For the rest of the match, the poor boy kept looking over to the sidelines, fearing something else might happen to him.”

It is understood a representative of one of the clubs had also argued with the referee as part of the incident and was carded.

Complaints were also lodged with Sports Tours, the company which organised the event, and the Hampshire FA, which sanctioned the tournament.

Emma Allen, a Hampshire FA spokesman, confirmed they were aware of incidents at the weekend’s tournament but had not yet received reports from any club and/or match official so far.

The Hampshire FA say it could take action by way of a disciplinary charge against a club member involved, either directly or following further investigation.

These incidents are not the only ones to happen in Newport this year, with the Hampshire FA investigating punches allegedly thrown by a visiting Paulsgrove player and parents during a cup tie against Newport Youth at St George’s Park in January.

The incident kicked off when the teenager was red-carded for being abusive to the referee and stormed off the park, throwing a traffic cone towards the Newport spectators in the process.

It appears to be a growing problem in youth sport, particularly football, which led the FA to introduce the ‘We Only Do Positive’ initiative — part of the FA’s high profile Respect campaign — to try to keep a lid on it.

While some parents shout an often conflicting mix of encouragement and advice to their children, it is sometimes interspersed with agonised, expletive-enhanced appeals to the referee, as the rest watch, grim-faced and anxious.

FA research into the problem revealed 90 per cent of children play better with positive encouragement as well as the connotations a negative experience can have on a child.

Geoff Ruck, chairman of the Isle of Wight Football Association, said: “Until Hampshire FA receive reports from referees, they cannot act.

“The Hampshire and Isl of Wight FAs have zero tolerance towards the abuse of any official.

“There is no place in the game for that kind of abuse.”

A coach from one of the teams which participated in the festival, said the aim of last weekend’s event was to allow children to have fun.

“Their welfare has to come first. If complaints are not made about those who cause trouble at youth football matches, they will just continue to do it,” he said.

Steve Da Costa, of Sports Tours, condemned the perpetrators and said the referees in both games should have halted their respective matches and told both culprits to leave the area.

In the case of the linesman, the referee should have called the head referee and Sports Tours event staff for help, with the police called if the man did not leave the grounds.

The company also urged both referees to report the incidents to the Hampshire FA.

“Some people do get carried away, but there is certainly no place in society or football, whereby an adult should swear at a child,” Mr Da Costa said.

“As with the football tournaments we organise, they are for the children. We need to build self-esteem — making children feel good about themselves so they can learn faster and perform better.

“When a child feels loved, they will, in turn, learn to love and believe in themselves more.

“I would like to stress that all our tournaments must be played within the spirit and ethos of the game.

“We do not condone any behaviour which falls short of the FA’s Respect campaign.”