Football authorities call for ‘reset’ in on-field behaviour and from the stands

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Jurgen Klopp was given two touchline bans last season. Credit: PA Images

Football referees will be encouraged to issue at least one yellow card where two or more players confront them in a bid to tackle behaviour on and off the pitch.

It is part of a series of measures introduced by the football authorities who are seeking a “reset” in how those who play and watch the game conduct themselves.

Key among them are a new ‘Participant Charter’ empowering match officials to take tougher action against unacceptable behaviour, backed up by stronger disciplinary action from the Football Association.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was issued with two touchline bans for verbally abusing officials.

Serious and repeat offenders can expect to face increased financial penalties, while referees will be encouraged to issue at least a yellow card if they are confronted by two or more players.

Captains will be expected to take responsibility for their team-mates by encouraging them to play fairly and show respect towards the match officials and their decisions.

There are no indications professional leagues will follow grassroots football in issuing points deductions to teams for serious or repeated instances of bad behaviour by their players or coaches.

Jurgen Klopp has been punished by the FA for his pitch side behaviour. Credit: PA Images

Off the field, clubs in the Premier League and the EFL will also seek stronger sanctions against anyone found to be involved in football tragedy abuse, such as chanting about the Hillsborough or Munich air disasters.

Clubs will also continue efforts to issue sanctions to pitch invaders, the use of pyrotechnics, those who bring drugs to games and those who engage in discriminatory abuse in the stands and online.

James White wore an offensive Hillsborough shirt to the FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium. Credit: PA Images

Referees’ chief Howard Webb says standards of behaviour in the English game have been “allowed to decline” over a period of many years and insists it is vital a new code of conduct is followed by everyone to address it.

He said: "I think over a period of time we’ve seen a decline in some behaviours, both on the field of play and in the technical areas. It’s not exclusive to the English game, we’ve seen it around the world,” he said in an interview broadcast on PGMOL’s YouTube page.

He added: “This has had knock-on effects. We’ve seen copycat behaviour at grassroots levels, and that’s resulted in people either quitting as referees or not choosing to take up the whistle.

“I think for too long we as match officials have not done well enough in dealing with behaviours that have been unacceptable. We have too often confused unacceptable behaviour as passion. We’ve turned a blind eye or a deaf ear.

“We’re trying to change behaviours that are exhibited in our sport that have been allowed to decline over the years, for many years, that have now seen a situation where we have a lot of referees who are facing really difficult experiences at grassroots level.

“Numbers are generally around the world declining and I think enough is enough. This is our chance to leave a legacy of improved behaviour.

“We’re being tasked as match officials to deliver change on the field of play by being resilient and robust and consistent with the way that we deal with unacceptable behaviour.

“We’re ready to do that for the good of the game but it’s absolutely important that all stakeholders in the game stand behind our officials and ensure that they feel empowered and supported when they’re dealing with these behaviours.”

Howard Webb says standards of behaviour in the English game have been “allowed to decline”. Credit: PA Images

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Football has the power to unite and inspire all those that play and watch the game. However, sometimes, this can be negatively impacted by a small minority of players, coaches and fans.

“Our collective approach is to reset this behaviour on the pitch and from the sidelines, whilst giving our referees the respect and protection that they deserve.

“We are also determined to address the rise in unacceptable behaviour from the stands.

“Incidents such as dangerous conduct, discrimination, and chanting about football-related tragedies have no place in our game – and can lead to football bans and potential criminal action.

“Passion, emotion and excitement are fundamental to football, however this must be shown in the right way. Everyone can play their part, so that together we can create a safe and enjoyable environment for all.”

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