ZURICH Soccer's governing body FIFA promised on Thursday to take steps to stop what it called the mobbing of referees during the Confederations Cup in Russia this month as part of its so-called "play fair" initiative.
FIFA formally launched the initiative jointly with the game's law-making body IFAB on Thursday as part of a strategy "focusing on improving fairness and the image of the game," it said in a statement.
Football is often compared unfavourably to other sports because of the behaviour of the players.
Remonstrating with referees and surrounding match officials to protest decisions, known as "mobbing", is common, along with play-acting, time-wasting and other forms of gamesmanship.
YouTube has a number of clips of referees being attacked or chased off the pitch by irate players.
"Referees, players, coaches and fans all agree that improving player behaviour and respect for all participants (and especially match officials), increasing playing time and the game’s fairness and attractiveness must be football’s main priority,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said.
At the same time, FIFA technical director Marco van Basten told a news conference in St Petersburg that mobbing would be one of FIFA's first targets during the Confederations Cup.
Referees had also been instructed to be more accurate in adding time for major delays such as injuries and substitutions and to prevent more time-wasting, van Basten said.
One of the most common time-wasting tactics used by teams holding a narrow lead is for a player to be substituted and then leave the field slowly, stopping to shake hands with opponents and match officials along the way.
"The 'play fair' initiative is a plan for football," said Van Basten. "This strategy aims to promote fairness and integrity, ensure the game is accessible to everyone and optimise the use of technology."
The Confederations Cup, featuring the champions of the six continental confederations plus the World Cup hosts and defending champions, will be held in Russia from June 17 to July 2.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Mark Heinrich)