Players can be red carded for deliberate coughing under English football’s new Covid-19 guidelines


Footballers who deliberately cough towards an opponent could receive a red card under new Covid-19 guidelines published by the English Football Association (FA).

The measures, published last week, apply to the restart of grassroots football in England amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Players can be sent off if the referee is โ€œcertain that someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official,โ€ according to the guidelines, which will come into force immediately.

FC Schalke 04’s German goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel walks with a face mask at the club’s training grounds during a training session in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on May 14, 2020. – Players arriving in several sparsely-populated team buses, substitutes wearing masks and goal celebrations limited to elbow bumps — when German football returns to the pitch this weekend, it will have to follow a draconian set of guidelines. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)


Germany's Bundesliga is the first major football league to come back in the pandemic

โ€œGiven the current situation relating to Covid-19, if a player deliberately coughed in the face of another player, team official or match official, this could be deemed to fall within the Law 12 sending-off offense of โ€˜using offense, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures,โ€™โ€ said a spokesperson from the International Football Association Board, the sportโ€™s law-making body.

โ€œAs with all offenses, the referee has to make a judgement about the true nature of the offense โ€“ if it were clearly accidental, then the referee would not take action nor if the โ€˜coughโ€™ took place with a large distance between the players.

โ€œHowever, where it is close enough to be clearly offensive, then the referee can take action. This is not a new โ€˜ruleโ€™ but simply an interpretation of Law 12.โ€

The guidelines add that referees โ€œshould not be looking to punish โ€˜routineโ€™ coughing.โ€ A yellow card could also be issued if the incident is not deemed serious enough to warrant a sending-off.

Players and referees are both also encouraged to avoid spitting and shouting, and it advised that physical contact as part of goal celebrations should be avoided.

The FAโ€™s guidelines were introduced as the country continues to ease out of lockdown, although some localized lockdowns have been implemented in England amid fears of a second wave of infection.


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