12 August 2008





Go behind the scenes to see how the Respect campaign film was put together at Northwood FC.

It was a match like no other. A pro-celebrity meeting at the home of Isthmian League outfit Northwood FC. But why was Shaun Williamson wrestling with Les Ferdinand? Why wasn’t Steve Claridge booked for an outrageous foul on Mark Chapman? What’s Howard Webb doing with Kevin Sacre in a headlock? And why are the players calling on Fabio Capello to take charge of the game?

Last month, TheFA.com went behind the scenes at the filming of The FA’s Respect viral campaign video, which is currently doing the rounds on the internet. Football and TV stars past and present turned up at Chestnut Avenue to take part in the film aimed at highlighting what matches could be like without a referee.

Each year, 7,000 officials drop out of the game due to the treatment they receive on the field by players, spectators and fans, and Respect aims to snuff out this abuse. The film was developed with The FA by Contentment Worldwide, and the director Theo Delaney explained the idea behind it.

“We’ve got this problem where we’re losing so many referees each season, so we needed to show what a football match would be like without a referee," he said. “We got these great ex-players and celebrities together to play a pretend match without a referee and it completely descends into chaos.”The likes of Gary Mabbutt, Les Ferdinand, Dave Beasant, Mark Bright, GMTV’s Ben Sheppard, Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones and Andrew Lancel, The Bill’s DI Neil Manson, all lent their support. Among those well-known faces was Premier League referee Howard Webb playing a different role to normal.

“I’m one of the players, this time, in a game that has no referee and the intention is to highlight the important role a referee plays in a football match and the consequences of not having one,” said Webb, fresh from grappling with Sacre, aka Hollyoaks’ Jake Dean.“Hopefully it’ll send out a serious message: When people are thinking of offering abuse to a referee, they should consider the consequences of that particular ref packing in and there not being enough to cover the games that we’ve got.”

Webb’s character wasn’t interested in refereeing on this occasion, but he suggests that a lone figure, strolling along the touchline watching the match, is given the whistle to manage the game. But why would anybody want to referee under those circumstances, when the game has descended into chaos, particularly if the person in question is the England Manager. Fabio’s response says it all: “You must be joking."

Fulham supporter Shaun Williamson, or Barry from Eastenders, was delighted to see Fabio take part in the day. “It’s been every schoolboy’s dream. I’ve met Les Ferdinand, Gary Mabbutt, Dave Beasant, legends of the game, but also I met Fabio Capello who plays an important part in the film,” he said.

“It’s great to be involved in something that can encourage people to don the black kit, get out there and take charge. It’s just to prove in a light-hearted way that, no matter what you think of the referee, we need them out there and we need an authority figure.”

After brushing himself down following his encounter with Claridge, Radio One presenter, Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman – a regular player in the grassroots game – said why he feels we need to start cherishing our referees.“It’s time that we draw a line under what’s happened over the years, both in amateur football and in the professional game, and stop giving the refs abuse," he admitted.

"It’s a big thing, when you’ve got kids, I want mine to be playing football for years and in order for them to do that there is going to have to be referees. If we continue to abuse them as we do, both on the pitch and in the media, then there isn’t going to be many of them left.”

A very serious message.