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Premier League announces new rules to address player behavior in matches

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The EPL is cracking down on players who surround and attempt to intimidate referees during matches.

West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Starting next season, this is a no-no.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

If you’ve found yourself at times frustrated by the way Premier League teams and players address and confront match officials during matches, you’re not alone. The Premier League today announced new regulations for the upcoming season that addresses what has been called “intolerable behavior” by players and managers directed towards officials.

The new regulations specifically forbid physical contact with match officials, even incidental contact, as well as verbal abuse.

The new rules are explained as follows:

Dissent towards match officials

Yellow cards will be issued to players who:

• Show visibly disrespectful behaviour to any match official

• Respond aggressively to decisions

• Confront an official face to face

• Run towards an official to contest a decision

Offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures towards match officials

Red cards will be issued to players who confront match officials and use offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures towards them.

Physical contact with match officials

• A yellow card for physical contact with any match official in a non-aggressive manner (e.g. an inquisitive approach to grab the official’s attention).

• A red card for physical contact with match officials in an aggressive or confrontational manner.

In addition, the Premier League is also adopting rules that forbid multiple members of a club surrounding a match official in order to influence his decision. Yellow cards can be given to “at least one player” in these situations and the FA will continue to sanction clubs that engage in this behavior.

There are also new rules that address the behavior of managers, coaches, and players on the sidelines.

All Premier League clubs engage in this kind of behavior at some point every season, even Tottenham, and it’s hard not to think that these new regulations are coming about in part due to the epic match management catastrophe that was the Battle of Stamford Bridge last spring. Some of these rules aren’t exactly new – if a player physically engages with a referee he should expect to be expelled – but it does codify them and establishes them as a point of emphasis next season.

I’m glad to see the Premier League take a stand on this kind of behavior. While we as fans complain constantly about the performance of match officials, they have without question one of the hardest and most thankless jobs in football, and should not have abuse and intimidation directed at them for doing their jobs.

Finally, I find it hilarious that the Premier League’s cover photo for this article is a shot of Harry Kane shaking the hand of a match official. Because Harry Kane is an awesome person and a model footballer who would never verbally harangue a referee during a match. It’s nice to see him recognized.