Get ready to see Premier League players being issued with red cards for abusing referees
A new zero-tolerance policy rolled out on Wednesday by the Premier and English Football Leagues aims to crack down on the abuse and dissent levelled at referees and match officials.
Following a surge in confrontational and abusive behaviour towards referees in last season’s Premier League, the new initiative will instruct referees to take a no-nonsense approach enforced rigorously through the awarding of more yellow and red cards.
Executives from the Premier League, Football Association and English Football League hope the decision will prove a meaningful step towards cleansing the game of swearing and abusive language, physical contact and the intimidation of officials by crowding around them.
It is also hoped that moving the game towards the stricter, more stringent approach seen in Rugby Union, top managers and players will set a better example to the hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers who look to them as role models.
The new behavioural initiative will be introduced on the opening day of the season, and will be observed by players, managers and officials alike.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday at a press conference in London, Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said: "We're looking to make a step change in the way our participants behave and how they are seen around the world. This is about players, about managers, and about referees.
“We and our clubs have been discussing for some time concerns that certain elements of player behaviour are overstepping the mark – the mass confrontations, overt displays of dissent and offensive language.
“The Premier League, the EFL, the FA Cup… clearly, across the world, these competitions resonate and people actually look to us to set the example across the world.
“When we discuss what is holding us back from being universally popular as a brand, one of the things that comes back time and time again is wouldn’t it be nice if some of participants didn’t display those behavioural tendencies that just step over the edge.”
Martin Glenn, FA chief executive, added that a stricter approach would help foster the right attitudes and approaches among young players taking up the game in the future.
“Having run a kid’s team as a FA level one coach as I have done, you would see, while refereeing games on a Sunday morning, the bad behaviour on Match of the Day on Saturday night taken up by the eight or nine year-olds.
“That mimicry factor, that poor behaviour gets picked up, and we all believe that we have a responsibility for promoting the games in its widest sense.
“We want passion, we want intensity in the game – but there is a line.”
Working with Mike Riley, manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, the associations aim to clamp down on abuse by disciplining players and managers for:
- Dissent towards match officials;
- Making offensive, insulting of abusive comments or gestures;
- Engaging in physical contact, whether it be intrusive or aggressive;
- Surrounding match officials over decision;
- Their conduct in the technical area.
Under the new guidance, players will be booked for visibly disrespectful behaviour, aggressive responses to decisions and face-to-face confrontations, while players use abusive language or make aggressive contact with officials can expect to be sent off and face match bans.
In a bid to improve the consistency and standard of refereeing, Riley added that master classes will be held with more than 357 managers and coaches on the rules surrounding the technical area, which increasingly has become a flashpoint for sparring managers during close-run games.
According to Riley, the “overfamiliarity” between teams and the fourth official will be clamped down on, as renewed emphasis is placed on “neutrality” in order to “better manage the technical area.”
For the first time, Championship clubs will also be required to fund the training of a new select group of referees for the division, which Riley believes will improve standards across the board.
Scudamore, who revealed the Premier League will for the first time meet all clubs prior to the season starting, added: "If participant behaviour doesn't improve, then there will be more yellow and red cards.
"The game has put a huge effort into education, to try to ensure we don't have this extra spate of yellow and red cards.
"But the game is prepared if we have them. The clubs are committed and we are committed to see this through."
Riley added that based on the evidence from previous “re-calibrations”, it was inevitable that there would be some fall-out because “it takes a while for people to adjust.”
The announcement comes after a string of high-profile incidents last season including Leicester’s Jamie Vardy verbally abusing referee Jonathan Moss and the bust-up between Chelsea and Tottenham during their clash at Stamford Bridge in the penultimate game of the season.