Serie B introduces virtual green card to reward fair play

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s second tier Serie B league is introducing a so-called green card to reward fair play by players and officials, starting with matches over the weekend.

Although no card will actually be shown, referees will be encouraged to report incidents of what they consider to be unusually good conduct to the match delegate at the end of each game.

“We want to put more emphasis on good behaviour, to underline the educative influence that the game has, because all the positive examples have great influence in the minds of the supporters,” said Lega B president Andrea Abodi.

The players who have been given green cards will be announced at the end of each month.

“The incidents which are reported must obviously be out of the ordinary, unplanned and deserve to be brought to attention,” said Marcello Nicchi, president of the Italian referees’ association.

Modern soccer is plagued by the poor conduct of players, who are often criticised for diving to win penalties, feigning injuries to waste time or get an opponent sent off and bullying match officials.

Even the act of kicking the ball out of play to allow for treatment for an injured opponent, initially lauded as an example of sportsmanship, is now sometimes seen more as an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

Players are occasionally suspected of feigning injuries and then pressuring the opponents to kick the ball out of play, wasting time in the process or breaking up an attack.

On returning the ball, they hoof it downfield rather than to the place from where it was kicked out of play, forcing the opposition to re-start their attack.

However, there have been instances of exemplary behaviour in Italy.

Lazio forward Miroslav Klose owned up to scoring with his hand in a game against Napoli in September 2012 and the goal was disallowed.

In March 2014, referee Nicola Rizzi changed his mind after awarding a penalty to Sassuolo against AS Roma for a foul on Nicola Sansone.

Roma players said that the referee asked Sansone what had happened and changed his mind after the player said it was not a foul.

Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Mark Meadows