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Football to crack down on referee dissent and tragedy chanting

Referees will be given more protection from being surrounded by players or abused by coaches

Richard Jolly
Senior Football Correspondent
Monday 31 July 2023 15:15 BST
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Referees will be afforded more protection from being surrounded by players
Referees will be afforded more protection from being surrounded by players (Getty Images)

The football authorities have launched a crackdown on dissent this season by saying that at least one player will be booked every time a group crowds around the referee and invades the personal space of officials.

And they are also vowing to do more to stop tragedy chanting and abuse relating to disasters by introducing tough new measures that include stadium bans and potential criminal prosecutions for fans who are found guilty.

The Premier League, the FA and the Football League have joined together with the Women’s Super League, the Women’s Championship, the National League and PGMOL to introduce a Participant Charter designed to improve the behaviour of both players and fans.

Match officials will be given the power to take stronger action with the FA vowing to dish out tougher disciplinary measures. For example, when players surround the referee or his assistants, at least one will be shown a yellow card and the FA could decide on further action.

A new technical area code will be introduced, which has been agreed with the PFA and LMA, and could bring bigger fines for repeat offenders. Only two members of a coaching team will be allowed to stand at any one time, with only one near the pitch, in an attempt to reduce the number and size of confrontations.

There is a greater attempt to stamp out football tragedy abuse, which the governing bodies united to call “totally unacceptable” with a focus on offensive chanting, gesturing and the displaying of offensive messages that can cause distress to victims and their families.

Football authorities will work with the police to track down and punish offenders while ground regulations have been updated to incorporate tragedy chanting.

Chanting that mocks the Hillsborough disaster has been an issue in football (Getty)

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “Football has the power to unite and inspire all that play and watch the game. However, sometimes that can be negatively impacted by a small minority of players, coaching and fans. Our collective approach is to reset this behaviour on the pitch and from the sidelines while giving our referees the respect and protection they deserve.”

An education scheme, under the ‘Love Football Protect the Game’ banner, will be launched to inform about the hurt that tragedy chanting can cause.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “We strongly believe there is no room for abhorrent tragedy abuse in football.”

Douglas Mackay, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor and Sports National Lead Prosecutor, added: “We are sending a clear message that we demand so-called fans stop this vile behaviour of a minority which has a terrible impact on the bereaved and communities. If they do not then they face the risk of being excluded from the game they claim to love.”

A Tottenham fan was given a three-year banning order in June for mocking the Hillsborough tragedy while a Manchester United supporter who wore an offensive shirt about the 1989 disaster at the FA Cup final got a four-year ban.

In April a man who sent hateful tweets about the Hillsborough tragedy, which led to the loss of 97 lives, was given a suspended prison sentence.

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