Red Card Warning As Penalty For Deliberate Coughing In Football

Written by on August 4, 2020

Footballers can be sent off if referees judge they have coughed deliberately at opponents or match officials in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, say the sport’s rule-makers and England’s Football Association.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) said it was up to the referee to judge whether he felt the cough was an abusive gesture.


FC Porto’s Portuguese coach Sergio Conceicao (C) argues with an assistant referee after receiving a red card during the ‘Taca de Portugal’ (Portugal’s Cup) final football match between SL Benfica and FC Porto at the City Stadium of Coimbra on August 1, 2020. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

IFAB classified deliberate coughing as similar to “using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”.

“As with all offences, the referee has to make a judgement about the true nature of the offence,” it said.

“If it were clearly accidental, then the referee would not take action nor if the ‘cough’ took place with a large distance between the players.

“However, where it is close enough to be clearly offensive, then the referee can take action.”


Lyon’s Brazilian midfielder Thiago Mendes (L) is shown a red card during the French League Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain vs Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on July 31, 2020. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)


The FA’s guidance for grassroots football in England will come into force immediately.

“If the incident was not severe enough to merit a sending-off, a caution could be issued for ‘unsporting behaviour’,” it wrote in a document.


Saint-Etienne’s French defender Loic Perrin (C) receives a rec card from French referee Amaury Delerue (R) during the French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) on July 24, 2020, at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

It added referees must not look to punish “routine” coughing and “action can only be supported where it is evident it was a clear act against someone else”.


Referee Martin Atkinson (2R) shows the red card to Leicester City’s Northern Irish defender Jonny Evans (2L) during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on July 26, 2020. (Photo by CARL RECINE / POOL / AFP) 

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