Premier League plans discipline crackdown
Public concern at the way footballers behave has been around since long before the Premier League came into existence.
Whether on the pitch or off it, football's highly paid players and managers attract controversy and criticism unrivalled by any other sport in Britain.
This season has been no exception. From Ashley Cole firing an air rifle at a Chelsea trainee to Manchester United and Liverpool players getting involved in mass confrontations, the problem never seems to get any better despite the intense levels of scrutiny.
It is against this backdrop that the 20 Premier League clubs have decided to draw a line in the sand.
The chief executive Richard Scudamore told me in an interview that the moment had come to "raise the bar" on the standards of player and manager behaviour in English football.
Starting next season, the League, working with the League Managers' Association and the Professional Footbllers' Association, will look to introduce a new zero tolerance approach to on-field misbehaviour.
Scudamore highlights the crowding and intimidation of match officials, criticism of referees and foul and abusive language.
As the employers of players and managers, the clubs say they have the power to set new standards for professional behaviour.
They are then hopeful of persuading referees to get tougher on players who step out of line by booking and sending them off instead of turning the other cheek.
All laudable stuff and about time too, you might think.
But haven't we heard this all before? Is the situation really any worse than at any point in the last 10 years?
Scudamore acknowledges the point, saying it may not be deteriorating, but it certainly isn't getting any better.
What has changed, he suggests, is the public's capacity to accept bad behaviour from players. At a time of great economic uncertainty for many supporters, the spectacle of multi-millionaire players and managers behaving so appallingly sticks in the craw. He says they have a greater responsibility to behave.
There is also a worry that what young and amateur players see on the TV filters down to the parks at weekends. A BBC report earlier this week showed assaults on referees at grass roots have increased alarmingly this season.
So Scudamore and his team of policy advisers at the League may well have detected a shift in public mood.
The League is also, no doubt, conscious of the potential damage that is being done to the Premier League's money spinning brand. And with the London Olympics just around the corner, football and its stars will be exposed to a distinctly unflattering light when compared with the heroes of the velodrome, rowing lake and pool next summer.
But there is another motive behind Scudamore's zero tolerance crackdown.
Next Tuesday he and chairman Sir Dave Richards will face the parliamentary inquiry into football governance. It might be the Football Association who are in the select committee and government's sights but make no mistake it is the perceived failed relationship between the FA and the Premier League which put them there.
By announcing the intention to get tough with miscreants of the pitch and the dugout, Scudamore is hoping to take the sting out of any difficult questions about overpaid players being poorly disciplined and regulated.
He is also stealing a march on David Bernstein's FA by showing the League to be the innovator in football regulation at a time of structural weakness at Wembley.
This is all smart political calculation from a man widely accepted to be the best administrator in the game.
But does his new policy add up to much?
Beyond urging referees to get tougher and clubs agreeing to "raise the bar" where is the actual detail? Where is the commitment to tougher fines and other displinary measures for those who misbehave?
Sure, employers can set guidelines but when the pressure is on at the top or bottom of the table, are clubs really going to risk upsetting a star player who could be the difference between winning or losing the league?
And here is the fundamental weakness in English football - the FA's retreat from its core purpose and mission has allowed the Premier League to step in and fill the space, even though they face questions over a conflict of interest in certain areas of regulation.
It is exactly why the culture select committee is examining English football. And it is exactly why the Government continues to threaten to introduce legislation if the game doesn't take responsibility for failings which go way beyond a few on pitch brawls and bad headlines about referees.