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Does the new Respect FC ad do more harm than good? - Geek Parents

* Estimated reading time: 2min *

Overshadowed now by a run on sexist sky sports soccer pundits, you may have noticed that the FA last week launched a new campaign to clamp down on abusive parents at kids football games. The basic premise of the video involves badboy ex-footballer Neil Ruddock yelling at a young boy whilst comedian Mark Watson, as the chairman of Respect FC, orates a call to arms against ‘gobby morons’. It’s no doubt a worthy (if somewhat niche) cause to champion, focusing on a particularly public and intimidating form of bullying and as this week is demonstrating there’s clearly a need for more respect on the sidelines of the football pitch both at the grassroots and professional levels.

However, watching the advert (embedded at the end of the article) I have reservations about supporting the campaign. There are two issues with it which raise concerns over the message it’s trying to communicate.

Firstly, the choice to cast Neil Ruddock as the ‘gobby moron’. It’s great casting, Ruddock is a natural fit for the role and plays it with terrifying conviction and the obvious goal of the advert is to provide a figure for parents to rally against. But then Neil is a public figure with a reputation for being aggressive in real life, indeed it’s part of what made him a celebrity to begin with. So has this given parents a figurehead to rally against or just given bullying parents a role model to emulate?

Secondly is the mixed message the advert communicates with it’s message of respect. It makes a great case for respect and against bullying but then turns to hypocrisy when it considers ballroom dancing as an alternative pastime for children scared away from football by aggressive parents. It makes it clear that this is a mock-worthy pastime for a child suggesting that whilst children who play football are deserving of respect those who engage in other hobbies such as ballroom dancing are not. And of course the unspoken implication here is that this distinction applies specifically to boys. Oh look, there’s that sexism seeping into the sidelines again.

Ultimately, I’d urge you to support the Respect FC campaign – any sensible attempt to curb bullying gets my backing. Knowing how these things go, I’m willing to give those running the organisation the benefit of the doubt and assume that this advert is a result of lack of properly thinking things through and getting too excited with the prospect of celebrity endorsement. I just hope that going forward they can temper their message and think a bit more critically about the messages they are putting out into the public.


2 Responses to “Does the new Respect FC ad do more harm than good?”

  1. Frank Smith says:

    It’s definitely a valid point you make about the ballroom dancing. However I think the overarching point they were making was, let’s make sure our future stars of the game aren’t turned off football.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Frank, you’re absolutely right. The intentions of the campaign are good but I think the message delivered by the video just doesn’t quite do them justice. It feels like the creatives got carried away trying to make the video funny whilst forgetting that mockery also has a big negative impact on childrens’ self-esteem. Not all bullys are ‘gobby morons’.

      Thanks for commenting btw