COVID-19: PLAYERS IN ENGLAND TO GET RED CARD IF THEY DELIBERATELY COUGH AT AN OPPONENT OR REFEREE
Players plying their trade in England will be shown a red card if they deliberately cough at an opponent or the referee, according to Sky Sports.
New Football Association (FA) guidelines for referees issued amid the coronavirus pandemic states that if there is a "clear act" of coughing towards someone, players should be disciplined in the form of a red card.
Deliberately coughing at someone could also lead to police action, with targeted coughing now being deemed a potential criminal offence by England's Crown Prosecution Service.
However, referees will not be responsible for ensuring players adhere to social distancing during goal celebrations, and that they cannot punish players for spitting on the pitch, despite the FA having banned players from doing so.
"Where the referee is certain that someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official, the referee should take action under the law 12 'using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures," the FA's updated document says.
"The action of moving the head/mouth towards someone and then coughing would fall within the 'spirit' and general definition of a gesture which is 'a movement of part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning'.
"If the incident was not severe enough to merit a sending-off, a caution could be issued for 'unsporting behaviour.'
"Spitting on the floor is not an act of misconduct, unless it is at someone when it is punishable with a red card, as per the laws of the game.
"Other acts of spitting or similar actions, eg nose-clearing, are strongly discouraged for all participants. If advice is offered and clearly ignored, then the referee should make specific mention in their match report to the competition."
The fresh guidance for referees applies to all levels of English soccer, from grass roots all the way to the English Premier League.
Officials in the lower levels of competition are also being advised to take electronic payments rather than cash, while assistants will be required to wear face masks when checking players' match attire ahead of games.