A WEARSIDE football team have been named as one of the worst clubs in its league for its players and supporters using bad language, according to a report.
Amid fears that swearing at non-league football is driving fans away from grounds, the Ebac Northern League launched a Secret Shopper initiative earlier this campaign.
A 17-strong anonymous panel have visited matches during this season to report on the behaviour and conduct of teams, before giving them a mark out of five for players’ language, technical area language, technical area discipline and spectator behaviour.
Northern League Second Division side, Ryhope Colliery Welfare (CW), who currently top the division, are the third worst out of all 46 teams, coming out with a mark of just 3.33.
Other teams in the area did not feature much better, with Sunderland RCA 40th out of 46 teams, Seaham Red Star 35th and Washington in 32nd place.
However, it is believed that some of the clubs have expressed concerns at the rating system after a meeting with league bosses.
Durham City came 27th with a score of 3.90, and the club’s secretary Kevin Walters said: “The discipline at Durham City AFC is improving all the time.
“Our most recent visit from a secret shopper resulted in a five out of five mark.
“The club has a new management team and good discipline is one of their key objectives.
“We have no doubt the club will rise into the top 10 in the secret shopper league by the end of the season.”
“Most clubs really do seem to be buying into what we’re trying very hard to achieve,” said Northern League chairman Mike Amos.
“It’s not naming and shaming, nor an attempt deliberately to embarrass anyone. Rather it’s drawing attention to areas of concern and to the negative effects of gratuitous swearing.
“We accept that there will be moments when inappropriate language might almost be inevitable, but most of it just unnecessary.
“It drives families away from football at a time when we desperately need them.
“We need people at every level of the game to help us successfully to tackle the issue once and for all and to make the Northern League nationally known for its self-discipline.
“It’s something we could all be proud of.”
Ebac chairman John Elliot said: “You can argue about offsides, argue about penalties, but you can’t argue about the gross foul mouths of some players. It’s just not acceptable and it makes for worse football, too.”
The Secret Shopper scheme is running alongside the Football Association’s own Use Your Head initiative and will run until at least the end of this season. Ryhope CW, Sunderland RCA, Seaham Red Star and Washington were unavailable for comment today.