European football

LaLiga, Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga players to "socially distance" from referees

As part of Europe's return plans for league action, Serie A chief designator Nicola Rizzoli wants yellow cards for players who surround the referee.

LaLiga, Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga players to "socially distance" from referees

The "new normal" in football as the sport feels its way back from the coronavirus crisis means games without fans, goals without celebrations and in news that referees around the world will welcome, no angry swarms of players surrounding match officials to vent their frustration at a contested call: players in the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga will face a yellow card for not socially distancing from the referee at a distance of at least two metres. 

The proposal comes from former Serie A official Nicola Rizzoli, who now works as the Italian league's chief designator and is backed firmly by the existing rule book, which states a player can be booked for verbally disagreeing with a decision. Now, in the coronavirus age, that will be the case whether they open their mouths or not. If a player (or players) comes within two metres of a match official to have their say they will automatically go in the book under Rizzoli's proposal, which is designed to protect officials during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Captains will have to control their players

The current regulations state that only a team's captain can approach the referee, respectfully and without any verbal abuse. That would become the norm under the proposal but it will be difficult to implement, especially in contentious decisions around the penalty areas. However, referees will have carte blanche to produce the yellow for all infractions of this sort, which will place the onus on team captains and individual players to rein in their emotions for the remainder of the season.