Parents, spectators and coaches at all youth rugby matches in Yorkshire have been told not to shout, cheer or even clap at games on the next two Sundays in an effort to improve touchline behaviour.
The ‘Silent Sundays’ initiative has been backed by the Rugby Football Union plus Yorkshire Carnegie chairman and former Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan, after some referees reported increasing abuse from the sidelines.
The Yorkshire RFU also want to raise behavioural standards ahead of an expected influx of new players following the Rugby World Cup, which is being hosted by England in September and October.
A letter announcing the Silent Sundays has been sent out to all clubs with parents, coaches and volunteers being asked to comply.
The letter states: “This is an initiative to challenge pitch-side behaviour at rugby clubs by asking all coaches, parents, volunteers, and spectators to be silent during games on these consecutive Sundays.
“There is a small minority who are definitely not living rugby’s core values while coaching or watching rugby on Sunday mornings.
“Some referees are being verbally abused and are constantly having their decisions questioned. We are losing referees, and finding it harder to recruit new referees, because of this.
“Some coaches, parents, and spectators are constantly shouting at their players. Screaming ‘pass’ or ‘tackle’ at players simply turns you in to a PlayStation coach.”
Junior players who leave the game have highlighted this pitch-side pressure as a reason for giving up.”
Greg Bayliss, the RFU’s rugby development officer for the region, accepted the idea was controversial, but said it was intended to stimulate debate about tackling the issues of bad behaviour on the sidelines.