German football is waging a desperate fight against bad behavior. In advance of the second half of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, the Deutscher Fussball Bund has advised its referees to act more strictly and uncompromisingly.

After the first matchday following the winter break, German football is in the middle of a controversial debate about a growing number of yellow cards and game bans, reports Xinhua. While critics claim referees are losing independence and any margin of personal judgment, supporters see football's integrity in danger.

An increasing number of incidents

The head of the German referees, Lutz-Michael Froehlich, said the action was inevitable after the country was struck by a growing number of excesses including attacks on referees in both professional and amateur football.

One of the main reasons for the new instruction is "the exemplary role professional football has for the youth and amateur section", Froehlich commented. In recent months, German amateur football has hit the headlines after several severe attacks on referees. Several of them needed medical treatment or had to be taken to hospital.

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Strict action in the future

The association's attempt is seen as a pilot project as its effect needs to be observed over the coming months. In the future, any verbal or physical pressure on the referees will be banned, the association announced. Froehlich said excesses like pack formatting and massive protests, across the borders of common sense, had become a habit.

The fierce body-check of Frankfurt defender David Abraham against Freiburg coach Christian Streich might have been one of the trigger points. Unsporting behaviors includes pack formatting, demanding bans for opponents, cornering the referee, and uncontrolled verbal protesting.

Yellow card violations on the rise

The average number of yellow (and yellow-red) cards grew from 3.6 to 5.1 from the completed 17 matchdays of the first season half to the beginning of the second half.

The association hopes to strengthen respect for referees as it faces a decreasing number of new arrivals considering a referee career. Over the past months, the number of applicants fell by over 20 percent. Most Bundesliga coaches support the changes, but the approval seems to decline when their own team is affected.