FA discipline boss pleased with new "fairer" system

Club Website editor Dan Pope speaks to FA Disciplinary Manager Mark Ives about the new match-based disciplinary system that has launched this season.

For many years amateur footballers in England have felt harshly treated by the FA when it comes to disciplinary matters.

While John Terry or Rio Ferdinand would receive a three match ban if sent off for a mistimed tackle, a player at grassroots level would receive a minimum 35-day suspension for the same offence.

Such perceived injustices are now a thing of the past in adult football, following the introduction this season of a new match-based disciplinary process that brings grassroots football in line with the professional game and the National League System.

When Mark Ives, the FA’s Disciplinary Manager, asked of the old system “Is that fair?” the unavoidable answer was that it was not.

“We have a view that people should be treated across the board in the same manner,” Ives told Club Website, “whether you commit an offence in Cornwall or Cumberland and whether that offence is committed in the local park on a Sunday morning or in the higher echelons of the game.”

Having introduced match-based suspensions to Steps 5-6 of the National League System in 2006 and Step 7 in 2009, Ives set up a trial of the new system at grassroots level, with seven amateur leagues participating over the last two seasons.

“It proved to be a resounding success for everyone across the board,” says Ives.

“I went to all seven leagues and asked them, having had a chance to trial it, if they wanted to keep the system or go back to the old system.

Without exception they said ‘No, this is a far better system.'”

Following this success, the start of the 2011-12 season has heralded the start of the match-based disciplinary process for all open-age 11-a-side football in England.

Player suspensions will now automatically start 21 days after the offence which led to the suspension and, whilst the size of fines may differ, the playing sanction imposed will be exactly the same for any amateur player as it would be in the professional or semi-pro game.

Players will receive suspensions after receiving 5, 10 or 15 yellow cards by certain points of the season and sending off offences will carry with them standard fixed penalties (see table below).

Sanctions for sending off offences - how the systems compare (click to expand)

In a significant change to the old system, any suspensions handed out for footballing matters now apply only to that particular type of football.

For example, if a player is sent off for a serious foul play while playing for his Saturday team, he will miss three games for that team (starting 21 days after the red card) but can continue playing for his Sunday team.

Two-way respect

This certainly provides a fairer outcome for players and shows that the FA have been listening to concerns, but Ives firmly believes that “respect works two ways” and the new system demands that referees are afforded the same level of respect.

His message to players is: “We’ll give you a much fairer sanction, provided you don’t turn around and abuse the referee. You may disagree with his decision, but accept it.”

To back this up, any player found to abuse a referee after being sent off will receive a further punishment which will, at that point, see the player suspended from all types of football.

To further support their referees, the FA have removed the player’s right to appeal, unless they are able to produce video evidence to dispute a referee’s decision.

“Something that really upset referees is that they felt they were being challenged by being brought to personal hearings,” Ives explains.

“Now we’re saying to referees ‘we trust your decision’. Unless there is video evidence to say that it’s wrong, that decision is final so referees will not be dragged unnecessarily to personal hearings.”

This rule change should affect only a relatively small number of people as, of the 54,000 sendings off in England last season, less than 1,200 (2.2%) led to a request for a personal hearing.

So it appears that the new system is fairer, clearer, more consistent and should increase the level of respect to referees. Sounds great. But if it is such a good system, why has it taken the FA until now to implement it?

“Basically because of systems,” Ives admits. “Across the country there were 50 different systems operating in 50 different counties.

“We needed to spend a lot of time with the counties bringing all of that together and having one standard system, which we achieved. We managed to bring it in to Steps Five and Six of the National League System. That worked really well and it just snowballed from there.”

The snowball that was the trial at grassroots level was, as we have already heard, a resounding success. So why is new match-based system restricted to adult football, while all disciplinary sanctions in youth (under 18s) football remain time-based?

Youth football

One current sticking point is linked to a key principal of the new match-based system – the right to appeal against a decision by video evidence only.

“In youth football we don’t want to have that right in there because we don’t want to encourage people to go around videoing youth games of seven, eight or nine year olds.”

Ives, however, remains upbeat: “There are other implications that we have to consider, but there are also other ways of recognising youth football in this matter.

“We are looking at this year seeing if we can bring youth into the system for the 2012-13 season. I’ve met with a number of youth leagues to seek their opinion and I have asked County Football Associations to go to their leagues so that we can get their feedback.

“But I’m pushing on an open door because I’ve already been inundated by youth leagues saying that they want it.”

Review and feedback

The new system in open-age football will remain under review this season and the FA’s Disciplinary Team will consider amendments for next season if required.

“I’m a firm believer that regulations are regulations for 12 months,” says Ives. “If there is need for a change that will improve the game then we get an opportunity through the right channels to change them on a yearly basis.

“I genuinely want feedback from clubs. We have created a new email address so if anybody has any observations or suggestions they should email them to [email protected].

“I can’t guarantee that everything will be changed – and if you see some of the suggestions you’ll understand why! – but I can guarantee that they will go in front of the relevant committee and they will get a personal response.”

Key points – what the new match-based system means for clubs

  • All suspensions start 21 days after the offence – whether for a sending off or build-up of cautions;
  • Players are only suspended from the type of football that the sanction came from – e.g. if suspended from Saturday football a player can still play Sunday football;
  • Recognised matches to which suspensions apply include all league games, league cups, FA competitions and the Senior County Cup that the team plays in.

Have your say!

What do you think of the FA’s new match-based disciplinary procedures? Do you have any concerns over the system? Would you like to see it introduced in youth football?

Please post your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ll collate them all and will send them on to Mark Ives and his team, something that Ives says he “would welcome”.

So don’t delay – tell us what you think!

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. Andrew Clemens on September 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    The new discipline proceedures are good apart from the fact that the appeal process for cards of any sort have been removed. If there is a case of mistaken identity for example, you can only appeal with video evidence. This is fine in the professional game but clubs at Sunday League Level do not have the facilities to do this, unless they record all of their games (I know one club who does). Once again it seems that this particular side of things favours the big boys and leaves the smaller clubs without a leg to stand on!

  2. vincent Taylor on September 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Good ideas.

    The standard of refereeing must be monitored as well.

  3. R. H. Swan on September 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    System good. However instructions on procedure if no correspondence from County FA should be made clearer, and I suggest
    “It is your responsibility to report all offences, cautions, dismissals, and totting up of bookings————–“, rather than the ambiguous “lack of paper work is no excuse”.
    Secondly I feel the time for notifying a player of his suspension, and then for remitting any money should be returned to fourteen days. The Secretary of any club with more than one side who might have a bad weekend is put in an almost impossible positiion when having to do all this in one week.
    Thirdly. Is any disciplinary action taken against a referee who fails to report such incidents ?

  4. julian cope on October 1, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Just two quick questions… re:
    “Recognised matches to which suspensions apply include all league games, league cups, FA competitions and the Senior County Cup that the team plays in.”
    1. Does this apply also to pre-season friendlies where a league secretary or club secretary has obtained the services of a registered referee?
    2. What about County Cup matches below Senior level, e.g. Junior County Cup etc.?

    Julian Cope, (Referee)

  5. Breck on October 2, 2011 at 12:11 am

    The new system is better as its in line with the professional game, but the charges are unecessary, some players are struggling to play the game as they are on the dole without all these so called fines.
    Yellow cars which isnt mentioned cost a player £10 which is put down as an adminisitration fee, Red card is £15 plus £10 administration fee, so a RED CARD cost £25, half of what a person on the dole receives, so how can it be justified to charge amateur players who actually PAY money to play. They arnt earning millions to play , most are doing it to socialise and keep fit. So fining players these amounts is a total scandal.. Surely a ban is enough as most of the players hate missing a game.

  6. shuggie on October 2, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Would love to see this rolled out over the whole country not just in England, including at all 11 aside games from youth level upwards. I know of a player at U17 level in the WLAYFC league in Scotland who was cautioned in may and didnt receive his match bans until two months later which meant he missed the start of the new season. Ref said he kicked an opponent where video evidence could have proved that he stood on the players foot as they both came of the park after the tackle.

  7. Martin Ball on October 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    An excellent system and hopefully it will work. My only comment in relation to the question about mistaken identity is that there should never be a problem with a Caution or a Sending Off – if the wrong player is punished due to ‘mistaken identity’, all their club needs to do is advise the local FA of the correct player who should have been punished

  8. V for Vendetta on October 25, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I found this article whilst researching for information regarding fines.

    My 11 year old son has just been given a yellow card whilst playing for his local team and we have been given a £10 fine and only 14 days to pay it!
    I’m appalled that children are being fined!

    I can afford the fine but what about those parents or parent that cannot? With £90 registration fee and £3 per game, and running the risk of fines, it’s cheaper to let them run the streets or sit watching TV eating junk food!

  9. sallyanne holland on April 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    my 15 yr old got his first and only red card at a cost of £35, i don’t have that sort of money as a single parent, but have been told by his old manager that if he does not pay he will be reported to the FA and his name on a register of some sorts and never allowed to play again, is this true?

  10. adam on October 5, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    excellent changes great 4 referees

  11. Dave higham on October 11, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    A u13s player received a yellow card last weekend how much is his fine. It was for handball in the area accidentally

  12. Dave mellor on December 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    We’ll my 10 year old son has just received a red card for saying ‘ for God sake ‘ after he was fouled, it wasn’t even aimed at the ref, now he has a two match ban and I will have a fine to pay, I think it’s just a money making scam for the FA , I’ve just been put on short time at work and struggling to pay the subs, and dreading what the fine will be just before Xmas

  13. Gill Grantham on March 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    My Husband coaches an U16’s team in Plymouth.
    One weekend this season prior to Christmas the team had an away fixture, unfortunately my husband was away leaving the manager to run the whole thing.
    The referee was double booked and didn’t turn up, no notification given. Following Devon FA rules people were ask to referee, nobody wanted to and the manager couldn’t as he was on his own and had a duty of care to the players, Most players left especially those travelling from Wadebridge and the rest used it as a 8/9 a side training game for 30 mins or so. The FA deducted 3 points from each team, we obviously appealed especially with the duty of care to players, costing £35.00 and it was skipped through with no comment. How can this be. what can we do

  14. Edric Hobbs on March 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Just emailled my MP and the FA about fining juniors which is harsh .Fines are paid by the club they cant make the player pay it .Even this is harsh with most small clubs run on a shoestring

  15. chris on May 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    My 12 years old got his first red card some weeks back and the coach has just texed me that he has been fined 35 pounds by the FA. I found this totally absurd as we have to pay for registration and pay 3 pounds per game. The question is what is the FA doing to encourage sport to keep children out of truancy with all their yearly budget.

  16. bruce atkinson on December 11, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    The FA is morally reprehensible organisation, fining children for yellow and red cards is ridicules, they then blackmail parents into paying by fining the squad and giving no right of appeal. Do we need a further evidence that football is no longer a sport, totally corrupt and only interested in money.

  17. jackie on January 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Can u7s get a yellow card

  18. Rhys on February 8, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    What happens if the referee gives you a yellow for a good tackle and then gives you a red for saying what a joke knobhead as you are walking away what happens

  19. Mark on February 13, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Im appaled with the quality of referees, i play u18s football, and during the last few seasons, i can only name one ref, who was fair. During most games 50% of decisions,which have cost us the league title in previous years are wrong, the refs have no control over the game what so over, there is a huge lack of communication prior and during the actual match, or some refs are on the other hand arr extreme and argue at players managers, and parents for no obvious reason. Refs should be monitored during youth games, and should undergo yearly tests of some sorts. Many refs are also out of shape, and so they cant keep up with play especially late on, causing poorer decisions.

  20. Mark on February 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I think giving yellow and red cards to kids is a load if bollocks. The fa are greedy c***s!!!!!!!!!

  21. Hugh rose on September 16, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    My 15 year old son was sent off last season in the Cheshire youth league. He now plays for the same team but in the Staffordshire league. His club has said he will not be allowed to play at all this season if he does not pay his fine. I’m a single parent with 2 children and can’t just pay out this money as I have already paid £90 fees for the first half of the season and will have to pay £90 again in February. Can the club Stop him playing and can they force him to pay the fine.
    Regards Hugh

  22. Allan Challinor on November 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I came across this web site while trying to find what would happen if a manager in the premier league refused to pay a fine, but that’s another matter. It would seem that nothing has changed in the 30 years I have not played football, although the fines were much smaller in those days the effect of imposing these’ s fines remain the same, animosity towards the ref that shown you the red or yellow card, disgust at the county fa who collect the fine and who think they are gods,and are usually run by men who have never played competitive football. The greatest punishment you can give a player is to stop him playing his beloved game, fines will not have any effect on his attitude or nature of playing they just make him resent the authority that makes the rules of the system. Do away with fines and give longer suspensions is the only way forward, but monitor the referees as well, because some of the refs I knew should have been suspended themselves for some of their decisions. If refs want respect they need to respect the players and understand human nature, then there would be no abuse of refs.It would appear that the FA have not learnt anything in 30 years. Time for a revolution, get every player to refuse to pay their fines, the game and leagues would be in utter disarray within a few months with teams not being able to field a full team and matches postponed by the dozen. Maybe then the FA will realise that football is for the player and not for the FA!!!!!!!

  23. mar on February 25, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    what an absolute joke my 11year old son has been giving a £35 fine and 3 match ban for a red card ,the standard of youth league refereeing is very poor to say the least and defiantly not consistent, the FA are just as corrupt as fifa , to busy scamming cash from working class people .

  24. elliot wood on April 26, 2016 at 9:37 am

    i recently refereed a 10 years olds football match were a child recieved a yellow card how do i fine the bastard he called me a bag of bones. I am very upset and i dont know how to put this through to you. Kind regards elliot wood

  25. Gaynor on September 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    My 11 year old son has just been fined for a Yellow card. Can they fine him that young.. How is he expected to pay, no it’s me as a parent. I have just paid £150 for his club membership and training fees. If this kind of extortion continues I will not be able to afford for my son to keep playing.

  26. William on November 27, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Even though the letter of the laws of football is the same for U10’s to seniors, and whether at grass-root or international level. What is different is the fairness and common sense of the referee. As a referee do I stop the game for every U10 foul throw, hand ball, and iffy looking tackles… No, for U10’s my main concern is child welfare, the spirit of the game, and fairness. If the game is U15’s I would expect a greater level competency an discipline from the players, and would referee with more harshness. A good referee explains to the players and coaches, what he expects from the them in each game, and what will happen if they do not observe this.

    Regarding fines, parents could arrange for the club to pay the fine to the county FA, then the parent pays the club back over a number of weeks/months. Fines are in place to enforce discipline, and promote the spirit of the game, for the well-being of all the players.

    There is always two sides to the story, of why a player gets a card. Take bad language, who wants to turn up to a game to play or watch the match, when players are F..ing at eachother. This is why we have cards.

  27. Lewis on December 15, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Absolutely shit fining kids when they don’t earn money and have to pay to play and with the fine sometimes costing more than a days wage to a single parent they have no choice but to stop them playing meaning that instead of staying active on a weekend they are more than likely having to stay inside watching tv or going out doing things they shouldn’t. This makes people not want to play football any more which lowers the participation levels in sport and with the poor refs running the game they can get booked for anything.fining kids needs to be changed

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