Pele famously labelled football the "beautiful game", but on occasion the beautiful game can produce ugly scenes.

One of the most infamous was in a Premier League fixture between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford in 2000. Referee Andy D’Urso awarded Middlesbrough a penalty which prompted a furious reaction from United’s players. Then-captain Roy Keane and a number of his team-mates pushed D’Urso back towards the touchline in an intimidating fashion, remonstrating with the official over his awarding of the spot-kick.


Andy D’Urso’s experience, and many other similar incidents, have prompted football’s administrators to look at ways of protecting officials from abuse. This time it is the turn of Richard Scudamore, the head of England’s Premier League.

Scudamore has announced a campaign to try and prevent unacceptable behaviour towards referees from players and managers alike. The top flight’s chief executive wants to, in his own words, "raise the bar", and stamp out any "vitriolic abuse" dished out to match officials. Scudamore fails to give much in the way of detail apart from an acceptance that something needs to be done and that bodies within the game, such as the League Managers Association, are to be consulted.

The first thing that all those being consulted should agree on is that the current disciplinary process is not fit for purpose. Clubs invariably receive a slap on the wrist and a five figure fine for failing to control their players. Small beans to Premier League teams who share the wealth of a domestic TV deal worth over £1 billion; there is very little incentive to force clubs to control their players.

However, the solution to the problem is simple – threaten clubs with point deductions.

If the Premier League implemented guidelines that stated any intimidating behaviour towards referees would result in a deduction of five points the issue would cease overnight. With the stakes so high at both ends of the table, five points could be the difference between staying up and going down. As a result players would behave appropriately.

Of course this should not stop the ongoing debate surrounding the standard of refereeing. Organisations such as the Premier League must continue to do more to improve refereeing standards and try and prevent the contentious decisions that invariably lead to the ugly scenes witnessed over the years.

But even if question marks remain over refereeing standards, match officials, like anyone else, have the right to work in a safe environment without the fear of intimidation. The administrators need to take a more radical course of action if this objective is to be achieved.