The "Get on with the game" scheme: Is it going to make any difference at all?

Jamie WardSenior Analyst IAugust 13, 2008

The Premier League have put together a new programme called "Get on with the game" which involves individual charters for players, managers and chairmen, a set of guidelines for acceptable behaviour alongside a new set of ideas intended to put an end to the disrespect shown by players and managers towards match officials.

Team Sheet Exchange: Before each match, team captains, senior coaching staff and referees will be present at the exchange of the team sheets, the idea is to forge a relationship between the team captains and referees in order to further positive communication on the pitch.

Technical Area and TV Monitors: The presence and use of TV monitors in the technical area will now be forbidden, Managers verbally attacking fourth officials and referees based on replays seen on the TV monitors will hopefully be stopped.

"Get on With the Game" Flag: A new Premier League flag dedicated to the "get on with the game" programme will be paraded on to the pitch before every Premier League game.

Fair Play Handshake: Last season, before every Premier League game, players and match officials conducted a handshake ceremony to promote the idea of respect, this is to continue in to the new season.

Refereeing Experts during TV Football Coverage: Sky, Setanta and the BBC have all been assigned ex referees during match coverage, in order to put forward some insight in to decisions made by officials during Premier League games.

Players, Managers and Chairmen Charters: The charters are a sort of contract which will be signed by each individual and will highlight what is expected by everyone involved. The charter basically sets out guidelines to ensure responsibility is upheld by everyone at the club from the player’s right up to the chairmen.

Rules already in place:

To me, this seems like a great deal of hype and several unnecessary ideas to try and combat something that can be solved with the implementing of rules that have been in place for many, many seasons.

The problem is not with apparently "passionate" players screaming obscenities; the problem is with referees who are scared to make mistakes when addressing controversial incidents.

The failure to implement certain rules that have been in place for years, despite being fully within their rights to administer them already, seems to be the real problem and maybe sticking to these rules would deal with abusive behaviour on the pitch a lot sooner.

These are a few of the rules that are already in place, some have been for a few seasons already and can be found on the official Football Association website:

The use of foul language or gestures is a Sending Off offence under Law 12. Players are reminded of the need to uphold the image of the game and to refrain from using such language. Match Officials have been specifically reminded of the need to uphold this Law.

E3—General Behaviour

(1) A Participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.

DVD/Video evidence can be used to support any charge, including those that fall within the fast-track system. This could be because any of the Match Officials have asked The FA to look at a particular incident e.g. a mass confrontation between Players or intimidation or harassment of the Match Officials.

The FA will consider fast-track disciplinary action against violent conduct, serious foul play, spitting at an opponent or any other person, or using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures.

In each of the last three seasons clubs have been reminded about the following three issues which have been and remains a cause for concern: Players not leaving the Field of Play immediately when they are sent off, Players seeking to intimidate or harass match officials and Players in mass confrontations with other players.

A proven case of intimidation or harassment of Match Officials by three or more Players of one club will be considered a breach of FA Rule E22 (a) by the club rendering the club liable to sanction.

Where a Match Official reports that he was at one time intimidated/harassed by three or more Players of one club, the club is liable to a fine of up to £250,000 for a club in the FA Premier League with penalties double for a repetition. For serious cases, the deduction of TWO points will also be considered.

Where there is an incident of confrontation and disorderly behaviour between two sets of players, so-called “mass confrontations,” Match Officials are placed in an impossible position in seeking to deal with such incidents within the normal on-field discipline system.

Accordingly sanction has to be imposed retrospectively. In such cases, clubs are responsible for the actions of individual players in collective situations and accordingly clubs will be liable to sanction as a breach of FA Rule E22 (a).

In such cases clubs are liable to a fine of up to £250,000 for a club in the FA Premier League, with penalties doubled for a repetition. For serious cases, involving racist or violent behaviour or an extended period of disorder, the deduction of TWO points will also be considered.

Players should be aware that The FA sets standards in relation to public comments about football. This will generally mean that any of the following types of public comment may lead to disciplinary charges:

i. Implication of bias—where a comment alleges or implies bias by another Participant.

ii. Questioning integrity—where a comment calls into question the integrity of another Participant.

iii. Personal/offensive—where a comment is personal in nature such that it causes, or may cause, offence.

Documents have been sent to Clubs which clearly set out the punishments that are likely to be imposed when Players are guilty of specific breaches of rules and regulations.

Players should be aware of the consequences of any breach.

These can be found within Section A, Disciplinary Procedures Concerning Field Offences in FTCM, 6 (a) to (i) and Section B, Disciplinary Procedures Concerning Field Offences in NFTM, 6 (a) to (i).

Why is abuse still a problem?

I have to say I am no expert on the rules and regulations of the Football Association, but it seems extremely clear to me that just some of these rules give referees more than enough power to stamp out abusive behaviour.

I would imagine that having a team reduced to 7 or 8 players in a game would make a manager or chairmen have a serious word with their players before the next game, add to that several quarter of a million pound payments every match and I can only see the problem being sorted out within half a season.

I find some of the ideas put forward by the Premier League to combat this problem laughable, especially things like a hand shake before the game, something that’s been done at international level for quite a while and all of last season in the Premier League, but does not appear to stop players behaving with disrespect.

The idea of bringing out a flag before a game to highlight to players and the world the problem of disrespect is surely not going to stop players behaving disrespectfully, considering it is a rule and standard of decency they would have known about since they first signed a professional football contract.

Abuse of officials in top flight football will certainly be a lot easier to stop, with the games being in the media spotlight and television coverage making it a lot simpler to highlight, but drop down a few divisions to grass root level and un-televised games with no support for referees and abuse will be practically impossible to stop.

The power is defiantly in the hands of the players in the modern game but I think that it has been the inactions of a lot of referees, managers and football governing bodies that gave them that power in the first place.

Jamie Ward


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