A new zero-tolerance crackdown on “intolerable” treatment of referees has been promised across professional football next season in an attempt to finally end the culture of abuse at every level of the national game.
The Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association announced on Wednesday that elite officials would be instructed to take a far stricter approach if they are subjected to dissent, intimidation and physical contact from players or managers.
It follows a series of high-profile incidents in the Premier League last season, notably the aggressive behaviour of Jamie Vardy and Diego Costa, but also the Telegraph’s Refereeing in Crisis investigation.
The Telegraph revealed new research which showed that 60 per cent of officials in grassroots football were experiencing significant verbal abuse in at least one in two games, while more than 19 per cent had even endured physical abuse. Many of those referees had said that their experiences were directly influenced by the examples being set by the highest-profile players, with more serious incidents of assault generally beginning with the sort of low level dissent that has been accepted higher up the pyramid.
The correlation between behaviour in the professional game and at grassroots was specifically acknowledged yesterday by the Football Association’s chief executive Martin Glenn, who himself has refereed in youth football. “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,” said Glenn.
“That mimicry factor, that poor behaviour gets picked up. We want passion, we want intensity in the game – but there is a line. Above all, we don’t want youngsters mimicking incidents of dissent or abuse they see on TV in the school playground or the park pitches. ”
After exposing the scale of dissent, violence and disrespect directed at match officials, a six-point strategy was also drawn up by The Telegraph in consultation with referees and administrators.
This new behavioural initiative – which largely follows the suggestions set out by this newspaper – will be introduced on the opening day of the season. Players are now being reminded that offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures as well as confrontational physical contact will result in a red card.
Disrespect, aggression, confrontation, including running towards an official to contest a decision, as well as non-aggressive physical contact and surrounding a referee will result in yellow cards. The code of conduct by managers and their staff in the technical area will also be vigorously enforced. – The Telegraph