The Premier League will speak to the players' union and the managers' association as it emerged that Wayne Rooney is set to escape with a warning and a possible fine after his foul-mouthed hat-trick celebration at West Ham United on Saturday.
The league is understood to be concerned at the apparent flouting of the Respect campaign by players and managers, and believes that the PFA and LMA combined will carry enough clout to bring their members into line.
The Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, last week announced a crackdown on the "unacceptable" behaviour by players and managers towards referees, saying: "The clubs unanimously backed the idea that at the start of next season we want to raise the bar."
Those comments were seized on by Rooney's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who accused Scudamore of "jumping off a high diving board without thinking about it". But the Premier League believes that football is being tarnished by behaviour such as Rooney's and worries that the commercial appeal of the game may be harmed.
The Football Association has studied the footage from the West Ham match but the Manchester United striker is unlikely to face the damaging sanction of a domestic ban as his team close in on a record 19th league title.
The 25-year-old has apologised for the outburst, which followed his penalty in the 79th minute that took United 3-2 up after being 2-0 down. United went on to win the game 4-2 and they lead Arsenal, who drew 0-0 at home to Blackburn Rovers, by seven points, having played one game more.
Rooney gave vent to his emotion down the lens of a Sky TV camera and the broadcaster was moved to apologise immediately via its commentator Rob Hawthorne. It is understood that Sky did not receive a significant volume of viewer complaints while the incident was not brought to the attention of the Metropolitan police's match commander and, as such, the force has no involvement.
The FA, however, feels duty-bound to act, given that the referee, Lee Mason, was in no position to see and report the incident. The FA's governance unit will assess the footage on Monday, with a view to deciding whether to charge Rooney with bringing the game into disrepute.
"There will be a decision tomorrow [Monday]," said Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's head of development. "It was a surprise, after a scoring a hat-trick, to react that way. It is something we will have to look at."
Rooney's timing was inopportune, given that the outburst came hard on the heels of the attempt by Scudamore to reinforce the Respect campaign. Although that was principally to target "unacceptable" criticism of, and behaviour towards, referees, it has focused minds on the issue of indiscipline. Ferguson is serving a five‑match touchline ban for his comments about the referee Martin Atkinson.
It is not the first time that Rooney has courted controversy by airing his views in the heat of the moment on camera. At the World Cup finals last summer, when England were booed off by their supporters after the 0-0 draw against Algeria, he turned to a camera and questioned their loyalty. "Nice to see your own fans booing you," he said, sarcastically. "If that's what loyal support is ... for fuck's sake."
It was more difficult to make out precisely what Rooney said at Upton Park but the gist of his defiance was clear. Sky Sports News later chose to pixelate Rooney's mouth when they screened the reruns of the celebration.
"I want to apologise for any offence that may have been caused by my goal celebration, especially any parents or children that were watching," Rooney said in a statement released by United. "Emotions were running high, and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate. It was not aimed at anyone in particular."
Rio Ferdinand urged the media, via his Twitter account, to lay off his team-mate. "newspapers+radio, come on give wayne a break he knows what he did was wrong and he has apologised, spoke 2 him this morning+genuinely sorry..," United's injured defender wrote.
The FA's rules state: "A participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010