• Behaviour of players is 'incredibly important', says FA chairman
• New code will clarify rules on using social media
England players are to be subject to a tough new code of conduct, drawn up by the Football Association against a backdrop of damaging cases involving John Terry and Ashley Cole, which will leave them "under no illusions" about the penalties for misbehaviour off the pitch.
David Bernstein, the FA chairman, believes the new rules, which include separate sections for when players are on England duty or with their clubs, should have been brought in "years ago" but would make it "crystal clear" where they stood. England's senior squad were presented with the code on Monday night in a 10-minute presentation after gathering at the FA's new £105m national training centre, St George's Park, in Staffordshire ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
"The England players are representing their country, they're role models, their behaviour is incredibly important in respect of everything else we're trying to do," said Bernstein. "I came into this position as chairman with five things I'd identified, one of which was respect, in its wider sense, not just towards referees but player to player. I'm beginning to think it's the most important thing I've got to deal with as chairman of the FA."
The FA was keen to stress that the code of conduct, which encompasses rules on discrimination and the use of social media, had been in development since January and there was no direct link with the Terry or Cole cases. The governing body, which accepts it needs to explain better the independence of its disciplinary process – which will remain separate from the code of conduct – has consulted other bodies including the Rugby Football Union and the England and Wales Cricket Board.
It is understood the code encompasses three sections: one on general conduct, applicable whether the player is with England or not; another on conduct and behaviour when players are with England; and a third on how any breach will be dealt with. Sanctions are not laid out in the six-page document but will range from fines to bans and will be decided by the Club England management board.
"We're not going to ban players for life but it will be much clearer to the players, if they offend, what the list of offences potentially are," said Bernstein. He also said the FA would make it clearer to players how the independent disciplinary process works, conceding there are "lessons to be learned" from the incidents over the past few months. The draft code has been approved by the full FA board and is likely to be in place formally by the time the senior squad next meet, in November ahead of the friendly against Sweden.
Adrian Bevington, the Club England managing director, said rules on the use of social media had been clarified in the light of Cole's outburst on Friday when, infuriated by criticisms from an independent regulatory commission over his reliability as a witness in the Terry affair, he described the FA as "a bunch of twats".
"Social media can be a very powerful vehicle for footballers when used in the right way," said Bevington. "We've explained to the players that that's absolutely fine by us but please understand that if you're using Twitter when you're with the team you should do so in conjunction with the team's media officers. When you're not with the team, clearly you should avoid any criticism of any organisations or individuals."
Cole is to be docked two weeks' wages – around £240,000 – by Chelsea for breaking the club's code of conduct and has been charged by the FA for the outburst, but he escaped a potential ban after apologising in person to Bernstein on Monday night. "Our strong view was that it was unfortunate, and something we viewed very seriously, but that it wasn't a capital offence," said the FA chairman. "As a principle, the idea of not allowing him to play for England would have been disproportionate."
Roy Hodgson is considering resting Cole for the San Marino game anyway but admitted relief that the issue has been resolved. "The chairman has gracefully accepted the apology from Ashley," the England manager said. "I know how disappointed and saddened Ashley was with the situation. He made a mistake and he's made it very clear he regrets it.
"He did it in anger and immediately tried to rectify it, and I'm quite relieved as England manager that this matter has been completely resolved. No one could question Ashley's commitment, which made his contrition all the greater that he might have put his position in jeopardy. I'm glad he hasn't done that." Hodgson is likely to have Jermain Defoe available despite the striker missing training on Tuesday but Frank Lampard, who worked apart from the main squad, remains a doubt.
Terry is still deliberating over whether to lodge an appeal against the commission's verdict that he was guilty of racially abusing the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand. The Chelsea captain is still seeking advice from his legal team, the club and his representatives and has until 18 October to make a decision.
The club are acutely aware of the damage the case continues to cause their image but will await a conclusion to the process before making any comment on the affair. They will, however, offer unflinching support to their long-serving club secretary, Dave Barnard, whose involvement in the perceived "evolution" of Cole's evidence in the case had drawn particular criticism from the three-man panel.