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Premier League updates rules about player/referee confrontations

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Northampton Town v Queens Park Rangers - Pre-Season Friendly
Is this a confrontation?
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

There have always been rules in the Premier League rulebook about referee treatment - it is, theoretically, a red card offense to use “insulting or abusive language” when talking to an official during a match, but that particular red card has not been issued in the last five seasons, while mass confrontations with officials over things which are seemingly not worthy of such vigorous disagreement are on the rise.

Again theoretically, the captain is the only player who should be talking to an official during the course of play. The stakes are so high and the pressure is so great in the Premier League right now, though, that players routinely ignored as players will crowd the referee at seemingly every controversy, real or imagined.

The Premier League is, as of this season, attempting to draw a line under such behavior; as beardyblue linked in this morning’s Cannon Fodder, the Premier League, Football League, and FA have worked together and drawn up new guidelines for player-referee interactions.

Starting now, yellow cards will be given for:

  • Visibly disrespectful behaviour to any match official;
  • An aggressive response to decisions;
  • Confronting an official face to face;
  • Running towards an official to contest a decision;
  • Offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures towards match officials;
  • Physical contact with any match official in a non-aggressive manner;
  • A yellow card for at least one player when two or more from a team surround a match official

Additionally, red cards will be given for “offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” and “confrontational physical contact” with a referee.

Now, clearly there’s a lot to be left up to interpretation here - for one, what is an “aggressive response”? what distance between player and ref defines a “face to face” confrontation? Which player gets the yellow in the situation brought up by the last bullet?

The first few weeks of the season will be interesting as all this shakes out, but I can’t help but see this as an overall good thing - if for nothing else than an improvement to the currently-sorta-mythical “flow of the game” people always talk about. If there are fewer referee confrontations in a game, that should mean more gameplay, which is what we all want.