Players who deliberately cough at opponents or referees can be shown red or yellow cards under new guidelines issued by England’s Football Association (FA) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The instructions to referees taking charge of games when COVID-19 restrictions are in place will come into force immediately and be applied at all levels of the game.
The FA document file for referees said action should be taken when “the referee is certain someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official…”
It added that the offence would fall under the category of “using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”.
“If the incident was not severe enough to merit a sending-off, a caution could be issued for ‘unsporting behaviour – shows a lack of respect for the game’.”
The document added that referees must not look to punish “routine” coughing and should remind players to avoid spitting on the ground, although it is not an act of misconduct.