Italy’s second-division professional league, Serie B, is all set to roll out an interesting and slightly hokey concept — “green cards,” much like yellow and red cards, except not at all — designed to encourage good sportsmanship and rid the game of cheating.
[ MORE: EURO 2016 qualifying roundup ]
Referees will begin this weekend awarding players said green cards for a number of different deeds, which includes but are not limited to “conspicuous acts of sportsmanship” and other “acts of virtue” on the field of play. The thought is, apparently, that also offering a positive incentive, rather than only that of discipline, will entice players to treat the game with a greater level of respect.
Additional ways to earn green cards, from Eurosport:
There is no in-game reward for earning a green card, but the player’s name will be noted and a list of the “most correct” players will be compiled at the end of the season.
Green cards can be earned for such actions as sending a ball out of bounds to stop play when a player is injured; helping the referee make a correct call; and — curiously — admitting to having taken a dive in order to win a penalty kick.
The introduction of green cards, which will reportedly carry no tangible value whatsoever — essentially amounting to a shiny gold star to be worn as a badge of honor and morality — will almost certainly do very little to “clean up the game” or “make the game a better place,” as the risk of diving to win a penalty kick (yellow card) remains the only deterrent to players actively attempting to con the referee.
Retroactive punishment — something rarely seen in Europe but extremely prevalent in Major League Soccer — remains the best way (outside of using instant replay during the game) to prevent players from doing things like diving or engaging in violent conduct outside the referee’s line of sight.
It’s a valiant effort to officials of the Italian league — at least they’re trying something — but don’t be surprised when green cards quickly and quietly go away at the end of this season (or sooner).