Citing “intolerable behaviour by players and managers in their competitions [that] have reached unacceptable levels in certain areas,” the Premier League announced Wednesday that referees will “take a stronger position and action towards unacceptable participant conduct” next season.
The most forceful new directive is for referees to give red cards to players who use “offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” towards them. According to the BBC, no player has been given a red card in at least the last five seasons for using offensive or insulting language towards a referee.
But besides giving out red cards to players who swear at them, referees are also being instructed to hand out yellow cards for a host of other behaviors. These include any physical contact with a referee, crowding a referee after a decision, and getting up in a referee’s face, and a number of other actions in the same vein.
Of course, many of these are behaviors that were already punishable—“dissent by word or action” is already a yellow card offense. The real test is how strictly Premier League referees enforce the new directives, and whether Premier League officials back them when fans and players inevitably complain after a star player is sent off three minutes into a match for calling the referee a wanker and telling him to fuck off.