Clubs promise to improve referee respect

LONDON - The 20 Premier League clubs have agreed to improve the behaviour of players and managers towards match officials next season after conceding on Thursday that things had got out of hand.

Earlier this month Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was given a five-game touchline ban for post-match criticism of officials which included the comment, "You want a fair referee".

Managers complaining about refereeing decisions has become routine in post-match interviews while players continue to berate officials during games.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said there was a will, with the clubs and managers on board, to improve the situation.

"We had a meeting today and the clubs unanimously backed the idea that at the start of next season we want to raise the bar, we want to improve behaviour," Scudamore told reporters.

"We can't alter anything about the refereeing or disciplinary process over the next eight matches but we can start planning for next season. We would hope, by the time we get to August 13, to have plans in place that will see a reduction in those type of incidents.

"We need to concentrate on the player and manager-referee relationship this time as I think every one of us knows there have been elements of unacceptable behaviour."

Scudamore explained the steps that could be taken to improve matters.

"The first thing is an education and consultation programme working with the FA, the League Managers' Association and the Professional Footballers' Association, then seeing how the refereeing fraternity might respond to that and help us shape that," he said.


"Ultimately, and as a last resort, the disciplinary process needs to be there to back up and tackle what is unacceptable behaviour.

"As to what we think is unacceptable, it's vitriolic abuse towards match officials and that has on occasions gone unpunished," added Scudamore.

"The surrounding of referees is unacceptable, the goading of referees in 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.

"We are not going to eradicate criticism and neither should we because I think fair comment is acceptable but we are at a point in the game where we do have to rein back from some of this undue criticism of match officials.

"It must be possible to say 'I didn't agree' or 'I thought the referee got it wrong' but there's also a point where it spills over into gratuitous criticism and it's setting that bar at the right place."

Scudamore said modern players enjoyed privileged lives and the contrast between them and what was happening in the rest of the world was getting starker.

"Footballers are idolised. There are so many good things about what footballers do so this is not us demonising them," he said.

"We are extremely proud of our professional football talent. But the mood is that things could improve."