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Players in England warned to be on best behaviour, or else

LONDON (Reuters) - A crackdown on behaviour will kick in when the new English season starts with referees instructed to show yellow and red cards to unruly players, the Premier League said on Wednesday.

The unedifying sight of snarling players berating officials over decisions or hurling abuse has been the scourge of the game and the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association have all clearly had enough.

In a joint directive the three organisations said disrespect towards match officials had to stop.

"We and our clubs have been discussing for some time concerns that certain elements of player behaviour are overstepping the mark -- the mass confrontations, overt displays of dissent and offensive language," Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's executive chairman, said on Wednesday.

"We are viewed by millions week in week out -- including lots of young people -- and it is our collective position that these types of behaviour should no longer be tolerated."

The Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO) have been told to apply the laws of the game on dissent more vigorously.

Insulting or abusive language or gestures towards match officials will result in a straight red card next season, as will aggressive physical contact.

Yellow cards will be shown for a variety of disrespectful behaviour, including responding aggressively to a decision or running towards an official to contest a call.

Mass surroundings of referees will also be punished with bookings to at least one of the players.

The behaviour of coaches and technical staff will also be more strictly controlled.

"Things happen in the heat of the moment during fast and highly competitive football," Scudamore added. "We still want to see the passion fans enjoy and demand, but players and managers have to be aware there are lines that should not be crossed."

Football League chief executive Richard Harvey said the new directives were not just an idle threat.

"To be clear, this is a set of instructions from the football authorities to referees to take action against certain behaviour that we will not tolerate in our matches," he said.

In the Premier League West Bromwich Albion were the worst offenders last season with 11 yellow cards shown for dissent, according to a survey in the Guardian.

The Football League season kicks off on Aug. 5 with the Premier League starting a week later.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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