IT could be claimed that Football Association chairman David Bernstein’s timing couldn’t have been better – or worse depending on your view – when he announced this week that a code of conduct will be introduced for England players next month.
It came just a few days after Ashley Cole’s Twitter blast at English football’s governing body and, just to add a little gloss, fellow Chelsea left back Ryan Bertrand also weighed in with his own Twitter expletive 24 hours after the announcement.
In Bertrand’s defence he was responding to criticism he received following his withdrawal from England duty – his ‘sore throat’ was in fact a rather more serious bout of swollen glands.
Cole’s was more of a rant following the FA questioning his evidence in the John Terry racial abuse case, but both Cole and Bertrand would no doubt have fallen foul of the new code which the FA hope to have in place in time for England’s friendly with Sweden in Gothenburg on November 14.
“I came into this position as chairman with five things I’d identified, one of which was respect, in its wider sense,” said Bernstein.
“Not just towards referees but player-to-player, the whole respect agenda. I’m beginning to think it’s the most important thing I’ve got to deal with as chairman of the FA.”
The process of bringing in the code began in January and since then the FA have lost the services of a manager, Fabio Capello, and a captain, John Terry. Bernstein’s announcement this week was overshadowed by Cole’s Twitter outburst, but he was anxious to spell out no connection should be made to the code and the actions of Cole and Terry. However, it is clear its publication cannot come quickly enough.
“They (the players) are incredible role models with incredibly high profiles and their behaviour is extremely important,” said Bernstein. “This really should have been brought in years and years ago.
“These guys share a desire to play for England. They really do value it. But the FA is a complicated organisation. Having the whole regulatory side alongside Club England has created a degree of confusion.
“There has been a lack of clarity and the fact we haven’t sat down with them has led to a bit of fuzziness.”
Bernstein, Club England managing director Adrian Bevington, FA general secretary Alex Horne and the FA’s director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking, have given the senior England squad a 10-minute bullet point presentation on what they expect in terms of behaviour.
Players have not been banned from using Twitter by the FA but there will be punishments if they break the rules which will soon come into force with the ultimate censure a suspension from international duty.
One player many believe would be an early candidate to fall foul of the new code was fulsome in his backing ahead of tonight’s game against San Marino.
Captain for this evening’s home banker, Wayne Rooney, said: “We have a responsibility to our families, our clubs and our country.
“We have to behave in the right manner for the young players who are coming through. With social network sites you have to treat it as if you’re doing an interview and say what you would say if it was a live interview on TV.
“There are people out there who are trying to provoke us. We have to be professional and not give them anything.”
Tags: Ashley Cole, David Bernstein, England, John Terry, RESPECT, Ryan Bertrand, San Marino, Wayne Rooney