Warning for Diouf as new 'respect' rules unveiled
On the day chief executive Richard Scudamore introduced a new Premier League initiative to improve standards of behaviour in the top flight Sunderland captain Dean Whitehead admitted he may have to act to prevent new signing El-Hadji Diouf getting into trouble with referees.
The new season starts on Saturday, with the Premier League launching their 'Get on with the game' campaign, and Whitehead has warned that the fiery Senegalese winger, newly signed from Bolton, may have to curb his temperament because referees are acutely aware of his reputation.
'People will obviously know what 'Dioufy' is about,' said Whitehead. 'As captain and players we will have to make sure he doesn't get himself into trouble because referees will be after him I'd say.
'They target certain players and it's part of my job to make sure he doesn't react. It's up to us to make sure he doesn't overstep the mark.'
All 20 clubs have signed the Premier League's new charter, which will see captains given greater responsibility for managing their team-mates and respecting referees, and insist they are present at the exchange of team-sheets for any pre-match instructions.
TV monitors have also been removed from technical areas, which should reduce the number of flashpoints, while broadcasters BSkyB, Setanta and the BBC will use former top officials Dermot Gallagher and Paul Durkin to provide an insight into key decisions.
'I have been in this job 10 years now and I sense a mood for something to happen,' said Scudamore.
'If we had mentioned this three years ago I think the reaction would have been different. Now everyone - club chairmen, managers, players, officials, fans, media - are all saying we saw things last season that overstepped the mark.
'If we see unacceptable behaviour, we should make it unacceptable.'
Ashley Cole's rant at Mike Riley during Chelsea's encounter with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge was probably the most notable lack of respect shown to an official, although there were other incidents as well.
Scudamore is anxious not to portray players in a bad light and feels referees have to play their part too - for instance, standing their ground when trouble is brewing rather than getting away from the scene as sometimes happens at the moment.
And slightly less abuse from the stands would help as well. 'It is not a one-way street,' he said.
'We are not just saying managers and players have to behave. Referees have to meet players halfway as well and fans have to back off a little bit in terms of the vitriol.
'I do not want to take the passion out of the game but it would be nice to take some of the venom away.'
According to Scudamore, venom does not meet passion. In his view it is right and proper for fans to have their rivalries, but there is a line that should not be crossed.
'We have reached the stage where the whole situation needs correcting,' he said.
'We need the excesses skimming off the top.
'It is difficult to say that without making it appear that we are trying to sanitise everything. That is not what we are saying at all.
'We want the passion and rivalries. What we don't want is some of that blatant disrespect and abuse.'
Scudamore denies the abuse is a by-product of the massive rewards on offer in the Premier League, and the financial disaster relegation can bring.
'When people talk about commercialisation and money, they cannot forget it only comes because we are a spectator sport,' he said.
'We do not succeed at anything unless we get the football right.
'There comes a time when you have to say the product needs a little bit of tweaking. We said we would do it. Now is the time.'