LONDON (AP) – With the Premier League season starting against the backdrop of civil unrest in England, soccer authorities are urging players to set a better example for youngsters.
A crackdown on bad behavior on the field was launched Thursday, including an attempt to eradicate unacceptable criticism and abuse of referees by players and managers.
English Football Association chairman David Bernstein sees the reinvigorated ''Get on with the Game'' initiative as ''even more important in the light of what is happening in wider society.''
''The role models that footballers and managers are, there is a great responsibility on them to do everything they can - and we all can - to work together and to accentuate the positives and do everything we can to help deal with these wider issues,'' Bernstein said. ''On the pitch behavior is so important, both directly in the way it affects youngsters playing football, but also in terms of wider behavior.''
A wave of rioting and looting gripped parts of England for four nights after starting Saturday near Tottenham Hotspur's stadium in north London.
An initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in north London turned violent, triggering wider lawlessness that police struggled to halt and ultimately led to Tottenham's Premier League opener against Everton on Saturday being postponed.
''If you don't behave properly, how can you expect the younger people around you to behave properly?'' West Bromwich Albion manager Roy Hodgson said at the Premier League's season launch.
Nearly 1,200 people have been arrested since Saturday, mostly poor youths from a broad section of Britain's many races and ethnicities, with some blaming the unrest on deepening inequalities in the country's most deprived areas.
The chief of England's players' union is urging his members to get out onto the streets to try to dissuade Britain's youth from a life of crime.
''We (should) try and do more to help those less fortunate than ourselves to try and see some hope and opportunity and the ability to succeed and achieve their objectives ... and have equal opportunity for everybody in this world,'' said Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers Association.
Players must also improve the image of the game.
''There is a responsibility on everybody ... we want some good images of England and football going round the world, not some of the images that we've seen this week,'' Taylor said.
Last season was blighted by episodes of poor sportsmanship during matches by players and afterward by managers, with the most high-profile incidents involving champion Manchester United.
Striker Wayne Rooney received a two-match ban for swearing into a TV camera during a goal celebration at West Ham and defender Rafael da Silva was fined after confronting and appearing to swear at a referee.
Manager Alex Ferguson served a five-match ban for questioning a referee's integrity.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has warned players and managers they will be severely punished if they show disrespect to referees this season.
''We've gone to the Professional Game Match Officials Board and asked them what will help them,'' Scudamore said. ''We came up with a reduction in disrespectful behavior towards match officials, turning backs on referees and we don't want players surrounding referees, as well as the conduct of managers.''
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK