A clear stance is needed if ever the habitual bad-mouthing of referees is to be eradicated, according to West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray.
He believes that the frequent inconsistency and, at times, gross incompetence displayed by match officials does not help their cause and contributes to turning what has for generations been dialogue between players and officials into dissent.
The repercussions of being free to abuse the man in the middle has been threatening to explode for a long time and the effects of it can today be seen by the chronic shortage of men in the middle in the lower regions of the game.
That the FA has recently launched separate campaigns to recruit 10,000 referees a year alongside a scheme called RESPECT, which aims to encourage players to be more courteous to match officials, should not be overlooked.
They are inextricably linked and the efforts of both initiatives have taken a severe bruising given events in the Barclays Premier League in the past couple of weeks.
Ashley Cole's petulant reaction to punishment at White Hart Lane ten days ago seems ironically to have become the moment attributed to finally snapping the referees' collective patience.
The ugly disrespect he showed Mike Riley was matched only by the disrespect he showed a fellow professional, Alan Hutton, who was the target of Cole's disgraceful tackle, which undoubtedly warranted a red card in such an uncertain climate. He got off lightly with a caution and Mowbray believes Javier Mascherano paid the price for that leniency.
He said: "I saw the Mascherano incident and, for me, it was a total over-reaction from the official to the Ashley Cole situation. It just smacks of huge inconsistency to me.
"A lot depends on the personality of the official and maybe he felt after the Cole situation that someone was going to get a red card if they said anything to him.
"I think the player [Mascherano] has been the victim of a lack of communication. Players have not been told that if they do this they are going to be sent off for it.
"If they had, nobody could have any qualms about the decision and I would not have any sympathy for him. But at the moment the water is too murky. One week someone will get sent off and, in another, a player will eff and blind and nothing will happen."
Even the most amateur of lip-readers could decipher the abuse being spat at Bennett after Mascherano's first yellow but doubts soon surfaced over the justice of his second.
That Fernando Torres, who moments earlier was also cautioned for dissent, had just been kicked and up-ended by a combination of Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, both of whom escaped with nothing, seemed inconsistent.
The Press has not helped matters, says Mowbray, referring to a series of tabloid headlines designed to mock, castigate and vilify the protagonists in the event rather than sensibly addressing the real problems.
Mowbray added: "I saw some of the press coverage and it just tells me what the media is all about. The boy [Mascherano] is getting lambasted and what did he do? What did he do?
"Why is no-one questioning the referee for sending him off? And what did the boy Torres do to get booked? He got whacked twice.
"I would have been infuriated and I would have wanted to ask questions of the referee about that decision.
"But the bigger question for me is can we do anything about it?"
It has been mooted that a leaf could be taken from the rugby code of conduct, which says that only the captain can speak to referees; other media sources have suggested that a docking of points would cure the disease.
Their sources lack credibility. One of the experts who claimed that the rugby and point penalty methods were viable ways of addressing dissent was none other than Ian Wright, a player whose treatment and lack of respect for referees would have rivalled even Cole's.
All Mowbray wants is simple clarity. "Someone needs to say 'this is the line in the sand and this is what is going to happen from now on'," the Albion manager said.
"Until someone comes out and clears up the law then it is no good the newspapers talking about what the referee should do.
"Footballers have been brought up speaking to referees, it has been in the game for 150 years and I do not think rugby is any better, personally.
"No-one being allowed to speak to the referee would take away the passion of the game. It would be ludicrous."
Mowbray has long been an advocate of officials visiting training grounds in order to get to know players' characters and sees the exercise as mutually beneficial.
"Referees are just human beings and some react differently from others when it comes to verbal exchanges with players," he said.