England

Northern League to appoint swearing 'secret shoppers'

One of the world's oldest football leagues is to introduce "secret shoppers" to spot officials and players swearing during games.

The Northern League, formed in 1889, could then "name and shame" the worst offending clubs.

The league encompasses 46 clubs from Northumberland, Tyneside, Teesside, County Durham and North Yorkshire.

Chairman Mike Amos said: "People say to me 'it's a passionate game' and it is - but it is also a disciplined game."

He added: "If you go to a Premier League game with 50,000 people there and the players and management are effing and blinding, you can't hear it, and so in a sense it doesn't matter.

"But if you are at a game with 100 people in the ground, you can hear."

Swearing 'league table'

The league advertised for volunteers to monitor swearing at matches and had over 100 replies from former players, referees and ordinary spectators.

A swearing "league table" will be published on the club's website, in programmes and in the league magazine.

The Northern League has led a number of high-profile campaigns against swearing but Mr Amos said the Football Association could do more.

He said the laws of football allowed a referee to send off a player or manager who used offensive language but few did.

"We have to get it through to the managers that the crowd is a few feet behind them," he said, explaining managers who swore often had players who did likewise.

"If they are swearing like that on a main street on a Friday night they would be arrested, so what makes it acceptable at a ground?"

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