Players' behaviour is top of FA's hitlist

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The Independent Football

It is easy to forget that there is far more to the Football Association than how England fare in international competition. So although the obvious headline grabbed from the four-year strategic review published last week concerned a desire to reach "at least" the semi-finals of major competitions by 2012, the FA's chief executive, Brian Barwick, believes that cleaning up the behaviour of players and spectators may be the current regime's greatest legacy.

A Respect campaign that was launched in March did not, controversially, apply to professional football because the FA did not want to introduce it in mid-season. Early feedback from 20 pilot leagues has been so encouraging that discussions have now taken place with the Football League and the Premier League to introduce new measures for next season at all levels. The one most widely trailed is that only a team captain should be allowed to approach the referee.

"I can't reveal what's going to happen, it would be unfair because they're still working through how it will work," Barwick said. "But the whole game will have an approach to Respect before the start of next season. And it's not a one-season thing.

"We know there'll be occasions throughout the season where the thing will fall off the rails, but we'll get it back on. It might be the most important thing we do over a number of years, trying to get respect back into the game. I'm not daft enough to believe that behaviour's going to change overnight but we can drip, drip this. And I know I speak for the chairman, we're really up for this."

Lord David Triesman has made an impressive start as the FA's new independent chairman, his lack of previous involvement in the professional game being a strength. As a former parks referee once punched in the face by a Sunday-morning player, he knows the problems at that level but also appreciates the influence of players and managers at higher levels, and crucially the need to punish those showing disrespect in their words or deeds.

"The positive side is that we need them to take a lead," Triesman said. "We've got to have a range of sanctions which are appropriate and we've got to be prepared to keep doing it."

Even England's manager, Fabio Capello, admitted: "In this last season we took a step back, so we need to get back to respecting officials, and managers need to be strict in enforcing this with their own players." He has promised to do his bit to keep England players in line. Master Rooney please note.

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