The start of the 2023-24 season has seen a significant decrease in incidents of players surrounding referees and charges of mass confrontations, new figures show.

The statistics, released by various bodies involved in the English professional game, also show a sharp rise in the number of bookings for dissent compared to the same period last season.

There has been a 37 per cent decrease in charges for surrounding referees (from 19 to 12), a 43 per cent drop in mass confrontation charges (from 61 to 35) and a 10 per cent fall in technical area misconduct (to 63 charges from 70 last year).

Referees have taken a tougher stance on dissent this season

Meanwhile, the number of dissent cautions during the first five months of the season has increased 88 per cent, from 966 to 1,813, compared to the same period in 2022-23.

These figures – which take into account the Premier League, EFL, National League system, Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship – highlight the impact of a new approach enabling referees to take a tougher line on discipline.

Howard Webb, chief refereeing officer for Professional Game Match Officials Limited, said: “We were empowered and supported by the game to be more robust with our actions to address declining behaviour.

Referees have taken a tougher stance on dissent this season

“A culture change won’t happen overnight and it is early days, but we are moving in the right direction and our officials are successfully delivering on our part of the collective football effort to reset behaviours, protect the reputation and promote the positive image of the game for the next generations.”

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This shows that our new approach is making an impact at the top of the pyramid, and we need to maintain this and ensure that these positive changes are carried through to the whole game.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Professional football sets an example to those who play and watch the game at all levels, so it is encouraging to see this approach has already had a positive impact on our game.”