Fair play reprieve on the cards

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Players who behave on the pitch will be rewarded under a new scheme announced by the Football Association yesterday. From this season, anyone who goes five full games without a yellow or red card will have any existing booking struck from the records.

The scheme means players on the verge of suspension will be able to delay or even prevent a ban by staying out of trouble.

But there is some bad news for players, because the FA have launched a new method of totting up bookings. Previously, penalty points for yellow cards were allocated on a sliding scale, with a maximum of four points for the serious misdemeanours.

The points system has been ditched, though: all bookings will now be of equal value. Players will be banned after just five yellow cards - last season a player had to be booked at least six times before a ban.

They will also face a further ban after eight bookings, with players who are booked 11 times having to appear before an FA disciplinary committee.

But the situation regarding sendings-off remains unchanged - bans will be for between one and three games depending on the offence - and suspensions will still come into effect 14 days after the offence.

An FA spokesman, Steve Double, said: "This will simplify and streamline the situation and will also give players the chance to really improve their own records with good behaviour. Hopefully, it will be easier for the fans to understand."

Manchester United complained last season that their players were more likely to be banned than other clubs', because they played in more games.

But Double emphasised: "Under the scheme the players have the option of having a booking removed by playing within the laws of the game."