Stand your ground, refs told

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The Independent Football

Team captains will be given extra responsibility in stamping out dissent on the pitch next season but the new 'Respect' initiative launched today stopped short of recommending that only skippers could speak to referees during a game.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore admitted high-profile examples of dissent from the likes of Ashley Cole and Javier Mascherano last season have forced English football's governing bodies to act to improve respect in the game.

Plans were unveiled in London today to launch the 'Respect' campaign - an across-the-board programme dedicated to improving standards of behaviour at all levels of English football and a declaration of war on dissent.

It will be implemented with the full backing of the Football Association, the Premier League, the Football League, the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers' Association, starting with Sunday's FA Community Shield.

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Scudamore recalled it was incidents such as that involving England full-back Cole - who turned his back on referee Mike Riley during Chelsea's game against Tottenham in March - and Mascherano's repeated refusal to leave the field after being dismissed by Steve Bennett in a Manchester United v Liverpool game which raised the public perception of indiscipline at the top of the game last season.

He said: "Football engages, motivates and inspires but we know it can spill over and get ugly. We all have responsibility to deal with these excesses and I sense now there is a dedication from all quarters - including the media - to do that.

"We want prevention rather than sanction and we've given credit to the media for playing a major part in the reduction of simulation.

"Now we want to see this programme becoming much more than just a campaign and results in making unacceptable behaviour just that - unacceptable."

Under the Respect blueprint, team captains will carry extra responsibility to help referees "manage games", meeting them before kick-off from now on in Premier League games when team sheets are handed in and being called upon to help the officials stamp out incidents of dissent during matches.

In turn, referees will be encouraged to act to the full powers of the laws of the game if they deem it necessary, and not to shy away from confrontational issues - with the reassurance of full backing from all authorities.

But FA chief executive Brian Barwick admitted a pilot scheme to make team captains the only players allowed to have dialogue during a match with the referee was dropped after consultation with the referees' association, who were "uncomfortable" with the proposition.

Neale Barry, a former referee who is now English football's Head of Senior Referee Development, said: "Captains must accept a new level of responsibility for the conduct of their teams and work closely with the referee.

"If some players go too far we can still recognise the benefits of a quiet word being applied but we also want referees to stand and deal with confrontation - not back away. Some will have to change their mindsets."

The FA has revealed that an average of 7,000 referees at all levels are leaving the game every year and although there are still more than 26,000 registered there is a constant battle to replace those feeling disenchanted.

The FA's independent chairman Lord Triesman said: "It has been difficult to keep referees who have had adverse experiences but we need to tell them they can apply the rules with full FA backing.

"We also need to ensure an enjoyable environment for youngsters playing the game. They sometimes need to be protected from the influence of overly-competitive adults who put too much store in success at that level and provide unnecessary tension.

"Of course the game must be about competing and winning if possible but not to an over-obsession.

"Now we have a lot of people implementing this new scheme who are good at what they do and it gives me every confidence it will succeed."

Football League chief executive Andy Williamson, LMA chief executive Richard Bevan and Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive endorsed the scheme.

Taylor admitted: "Of course it is appraisal time at the start of any season. Fair enough because the game quite rightly has a growing social responsibility.

"Players are seen as role models and I'm sure my members accept that some of the things that were seen last season were not too pretty.

"We certainly can't take for granted that our game will always automatically attract new supporters."

Key steps to Respect:

* Referees instructed to work more closely with captains to "manage" the game, including pre-match briefing meeting with captains and managers.

* Mass pre-match handshake between the teams to now be adopted by the Football League as well as the Premier League.

* Improved behaviour in technical areas - cracking down on the removal of offenders, including those who ignore fourth officials' instructions, to the stands.

* No more television monitors allowed in dug-outs (new FIFA rule).