A-League launches crackdown on ref intimidation

A-League players who join a melee or try to intimidate refs will face a yellow card this season.

A-League players who join a melee or try to intimidate refs will face a yellow card this season. Photo: Getty

A-League players have been warned against surrounding and intimidating referees as Football Australia bids to address the officiating “crisis” facing the game at the grassroots level.

FA’s head of referees Nathan Magill said officials in the A-League Men, which starts this weekend, had been instructed to clamp down on players rushing in either to provoke confrontation with players or to protest an officiating decision.

In the opening game of the A-League Women, which kicked off last weekend,  Newcastle’s Alex Hunyh was handed a second yellow card for rushing into a melee in her side’s win over Central Coast.

Magill said that would be standard punishment for a third player who ran into a confrontation, arguing that FA wanted to send a clear message that intimidating behaviour towards referees or fellow players would no longer be tolerated.

“We have a crisis at a community level where we cannot recruit and retain referees … and we can’t keep up with the demand of the participants,” Magill said.

“Some of that is actually caused by the behaviour that we tolerate in the professional game in Australia.

“We are asking them to take strong action on mass confrontations, as we saw in the A-League Women.

“Players who surround the referee, we want to take stronger action on that – the third player that comes into any mass confrontation to intimidate the referee will be issued with a yellow card.”

Magill said similar edicts had been issued to coaches on the sidelines.

“The fourth official has become a punching bag at times and we’ve asked them to take a similar approach with coaches who throw their arms up and are constantly abusive,” Magill said.

FA is also keen to clamp down on time wasting and will bid to give fans a better insight into the use of VAR (video assistant referee) in the ALM.

The ALM will have a live announcement process, which was seen in the Women’s World Cup, where an official will communicate to the stadium and broadcaster what their decision is and why.

“We’ve worked to find out ways that we can enhance VAR from a fan experience but also from a broadcast and media experience to provide more insight into what is happening,” Magill said.


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