FINES for dissent and abusive language in the WBW Solicitors South Devon Football League almost DOUBLED last season, as more than 1,500 cards were handed out.
Fines for disciplinary issues not including serious misconduct totalled £6,055 in 2011/12, up from £3,585 the previous season, according to official figures.
Devon FA confirmed that the trend was reflected across the county, with fines for dissent in Devon having passed £24,000 last season. But SDFL secretary Anthony Roach said the increased number of fines was more a reflection on the fact that virtually every game in the league is now being officiated by a qualified referee.
He said: "It depends which way you look at the figures, as fixtures secretary has done a great job making sure that all our games have referees – and when you have more referees, you are going to have more cautions.
"You can't actually compare the figures fairly until two or three years' time, as anything below Division Four wasn't being covered by a properly trained official until last season."
League officials have targeted a crackdown on dissent and bad language as part of a five-year plan to achieve FA Charter Standard League status.
The award is a best-practice mark that sets standards in coaching, administration and discipline for all clubs and leagues outside the Football League and Premier League.
Gaining the mark would make the SDFL the first adult league in the county to do so – and would open up potential funding streams for clubs to improve their facilities.
A minimum of 60 per cent of SDFL clubs would need to have FA Charter Standard Club status in order for the league to qualify, while standards of administration and discipline are also taken into account.
Watts Blake Bearne FC are the latest club in the South Devon League to achieve the FA Charter Standard Club Award.
The league's five-year plan is expected to include input from clubs, local authorities, sponsors, and other playing providers.
As part of the plan, the league also hopes to become part of the FA's Respect campaign next season, but would need the backing of a majority of clubs.
Roach added: "Like all organisations, we have to move forward and improve. We want as many people as possible playing football. We also want our member teams to progress if they have the ambition to move into the Peninsula League and beyond; we have to put a framework in place to help clubs achieve this."
Mark Young Football Development Officer at the Devon FA said: "It begins with people taking responsibility for their own actions, better administration, improved discipline and an educated workforce.
"Dissent cautions alone in Devon passed £24,000 last season.
Young was also keen to highlight the importance of the Pioneer Youth League in the South Devon League's ambitions to grow and improve.
It could suggest that a future link-up between the junior and adult leagues is on the cards.
He added: "A youth league is the future generation of an adult league.
"Football experiences a large dropout between the ages of 14 and 18 simply because we don't do enough to keep young players in the game.
"Our main focus must be on the intrinsic values of the young people – enjoyment above anything else.
"Adults believe that points, trophies and medals are valuable; all this does is add unwanted pressure and ultimately contributes to mass dropout."