LONDON — Finger-jabbing players aggressively challenging referees. Rival teams in mass brawls. Touchline confrontations between managers.
They all feature in a show-reel of shame produced by English soccer authorities.
And the video is being shown to players at the Premier League’s 20 clubs ahead of the new season as part of the latest crackdown on bad behavior that damages the image of the league.
“We’re looking to make a step change in the way our participants behave and how they are seen around the world,” Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore said after showing the compilation of incidents of indiscipline at a former London courthouse on Wednesday.
It’s a delicate balancing act for the league, which doesn’t want to see the intense competitiveness disappear from its competition. Even Scudamore acknowledged it was a “guilty pleasure” watching the fiery and engrossing game between Chelsea and Tottenham last season that led to both teams being fined over a fracas.
“I felt an element of it was not right,” Scudamore said. “But you couldn’t go away from that game thinking it wasn’t compelling”
The Premier League is already the world’s wealthiest soccer competition, raising 8.3 billion pounds ($12 billion) from television rights for the next three seasons.
“People look to us to set the example across the world,” Scudamore said.
“When you discuss what’s holding it back from being absolutely universally popular, one of the things that comes back time and time again is, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the participants didn’t quite display some of those behavioral tendencies that just stepped over the edge?’”
Rather than introducing new laws, competition organizers instead want existing regulations enforced with a renewed vigor in five areas:
– dissent toward referees and their assistants by players (yellow card)
– offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures toward match officials (red card)
– physical contact with match officials (yellow card if it’s not aggressive; red card for a confrontation)
– surrounding officials (yellow card and team sanctions)
– misconduct in the technical area by players and managers.
The initiative has been produced by the Premier League in conjunction with the English Football League, which runs the three leagues below the top flight, and the Football Association governing body.
The conduct of referees also comes under the microscope, with officials now under orders to refrain from physical conduct with players or risk their impartiality being questioned by seemingly to be overly friendly.
“Referees are just as guilty of putting their arms about players and invading their personal space — we are asking referees not to do that,” said Mike Riley, who runs refereeing in England. “What we are talking about is actions that are intrusive.”