Italy's Serie B to introduce green cards for moments of fair play

MILAN (AP) — Dragged down by fan violence and match-fixing in recent seasons, Italy's Serie B is introducing virtual green cards to award instances of fair play on the pitch.

"We need to provide good examples—because clearly they're lacking lately," league president Andrea Abodi told The Associated Press on Friday.

The cards won't be handed out during matches, as that would alter the rules of the game. Instead, the referee and assistants will decide who to reward after matches—whether it's players on the pitch or bench, or even coaches.

"It's up to the referee," Abodi said. "But they have to be extraordinary acts, not ordinary ones."

At the end of the season, players or coaches with the most green cards will be rewarded.

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"It's a symbolic award," Abodi said, explaining that the initiative is in the final phase of development. "It could be something very simple. The important thing is to recognize it when a professional does something exemplary."

One clear way to gain a green card would be to admit to a hand ball, or give away a corner kick for an incorrect call.

The Serie B season opens Saturday following a delay of several weeks due to a match-fixing inquiry. But the green card initiative won't begin until next month.

One item that still needs to be determined is when to announce the green cards—either after every match or only periodically.

"The referees think periodic announcements would be better to avoid linking them to controversy of specific matches while memories are still fresh," Abodi said.

Serie B is also introducing oaths of fair play for club captains, coaches and presidents to be read on the pitch before the season openers.

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"This is just one part of a series of initiatives on and off the pitch," Abodi said. "Respect has to come first. And that's where this green card comes into play."

UEFA and the English Football Association also reward fair play. The FA has a Fair Play competition for Premier League teams. UEFA has Europa League spots to reward fair play.

West Ham won a place in the 2015-16 Europa League qualifying round for finishing top of the Premier League Fair Play Table last season.

Still, it's too early to tell if Italy's top division will adopt the green cards.

"We're happy to be a laboratory for Serie A. But that's not for us to decide," Abodi said. "We've got to work on our own reputation now."

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