EPL crackdown on abuse of refs by players, bosses

EPL crackdown on abuse of refs by players, bosses

Published Mar. 31, 2011 10:22 p.m. ET

Highly paid footballers are becoming increasingly isolated from the real world, the head of the English Premier League said on Thursday while announcing a crackdown on bad behavior toward referees.

The 20 topflight clubs agreed to launch a campaign before next season in a bid to eradicate unacceptable criticism and abuse of referees by players and managers.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was still serving a five-match ban for questioning referee Martin Atkinson's integrity after losing at Chelsea this month.

And United defender Rafael da Silva was fined after confronting and appearing to swear at referee Mike Dean when he was sent off at Tottenham in January.


League chief executive Richard Scudamore insisted they aren't ''demonizing'' players, but he warned them to take more responsibility on the pitch.

''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 who 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.''

While bookings for dissent have decreased in the last two seasons, the perception remains that players are still out of control on the pitch and 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 English Football Association as well as the bodies that represent players, managers and referees.