It is a very positive move by the island’s sports clubs to collectively confront what is a disturbing trend of violent conduct by some of our younger people that at times is displayed on the field of play, causing disruption and concern among club officials, who are aware that unless the problem is addressed, attendance for fixtures will continue to decline with potential lost revenue.
For some years the issue of violence, especially associated with gang activity, has been hanging over the island like a dark cloud that refuses to move on. I have personally heard people say they stay away from football matches these days because in a climate of violence, with gunplay at times, it is not worth the risk.
Although most of the players perform according to the rules and show respect for those in authority, there are those who for reasons difficult to pinpoint react in a hostile manner when a referee’s decision is not in their favour.
If that player has friends on the sidelines, and they have little regard for rules and proper behaviour, it could become an unpleasant situation for the game official, with the safety factor coming into play. Much has changed in the family unit in recent decades, and the unit as we once knew it has weakened, with some children today ordering their parents around. The real point here is that bad behaviour usually has its roots in early experiences, and that is where the family plays a key role.
One of the benefits of generations past in tackling issues of unruly behaviour was that the support web included neighbours or people a family never even knew, who stopped an unruly child in his or her tracks without a second thought.
This was done because they expected the same should a child from their family cross the line in expected conduct. That system has long since faded and the “you don’t tell me how bring up my child” syndrome is the order of the day. In all fairness, not all parents take that stance when it comes to teaching respect and discipline.
While each family have a right to privacy within their walls, if for whatever reason there is an atmosphere of hostility or any form of abuse, the seeds of antisocial conduct could take root and explode in a way where the community suffers. We all know young men in gangs were not born with that stigma. Something along the way left them vulnerable to choose negative activity as a lifestyle. There are no easy answers for turning that around.
As far as the clubs are concerned, while they should not be blamed entirely for the conduct of players or members, they do have the awesome responsibility of upgrading their standards to a level where there is zero tolerance for those who violate club rules designed to maintain a clean and safe environment. The big question is whether clubs are willing to lose matches with players committed to obeying rules or take the risk of using a player who may be good but who possesses highly questionable traits in basic conduct on and off the field.
It could be a challenge for clubs because they need to be mindful of the potential danger in dealing with someone who might react in a violent manner if the situation is not handled properly. It is going to be an uphill battle for clubs to get a better handle on violent behaviour on and off the field, but with community support hopefully things will change for the better. That clubs are prepared to hold discussions on this issue is certainly a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the family and the teaching of proper values for living at a very early stage will be the central ingredients in trying to keep our Bermudian community healthy and safe. Much is being done in that direction, and that work must continue.