A crackdown is coming on bad behavior toward referees in the English Premier League.
League chief executive Richard Scudamore also said Thursday that highly paid soccer players are becoming increasingly isolated from the real world. Scudamore insisted no one is ''demonizing'' players, but he warned them to take more responsibility on the field.
''Footballers enjoy a privileged life,'' Scudamore said. ''The contrast between what is happening in their world and what is happening in the rest of Britain, and indeed most of the world, is getting starker.
''Whether it is realistic or not, they can't entirely be perfect role models, they are young males and boys can behave badly from time to time. But there is a point where extra responsibility comes with the territory ... the mood is that things could improve.''
Particularly toward game officials.
The 20 EPL clubs agreed to launch a campaign before next season to eliminate unacceptable criticism and abuse of referees by players and managers.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is serving a five-match ban for his televised outburst questioning referee Martin Atkinson's integrity after his team lost at Chelsea earlier this month.
And United defender Rafael da Silva was fined after confronting and appearing to swear at referee Mike Dean when da Silva was ejected at Tottenham in January.
While yellow cards for dissent have decreased in the last two seasons, the perception remains that players are out of control on the pitch. Scudamore wants them to ''raise the bar'' with their conduct.
''We do need to concentrate on the player and manager relationship with the referee this time, as every one of us knows that there have been elements of unacceptable behavior,'' he said. ''As to what we think is unacceptable, it's vitriolic abuse towards match officials and that has, on occasions, gone unpunished. The surrounding of referees is unacceptable, the goading of referees into trying to get opponents sanctioned we think is unacceptable, and also the undue criticism, where it spills over into questioning the referee's integrity or his honesty, is also unacceptable.''
The Premier League will consult with the Football Association as well as the organizations that represent players, managers and referees.