Youth coach banned for abuse of referee in under-9s game

An Arsenal youth coach has been fined.  Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images
An Arsenal youth coach has been fined. Picture: Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Arsenal have warned a youth coach about his future conduct after Alex Nichols was handed a three-match ban and a £400 fine for allegedly calling a teenage girl referee at an under-9s match a “little p****”.

In February, a Football Association regulatory commission heard the disciplinary case, which concerned a fixture between Reading Under-9s and Arsenal Under-9s. Nichols had admitted a charge of improper language and/or behaviour towards the match referee during the game when he persistently complained over decisions. However, he denied using “abusive and/or insulting words” to the official following the match.

The published written reasons from the case detailed how the match referee said she was made to “feel humiliated, belittled and bullied”. After the final whistle, the referee told Nichols she could not shake his hand because of his actions, to which he allegedly replied: “How classy, little p****.”

The commission found the second charge not proven, feeling the referee “was likely mistaken in claiming the offensive words were used after the fixture” and so handed out a one-game ground ban and a fine of £300.

The FA, though, appealed that decision. At the hearing on 7 May at Wembley, the three-person appeal board reflected on statements the “female minor” referee had been crying during the closing stages of the match.

It was also noted Nichols claimed he had never used such language, simply saying “OK fine” and walking away when the referee refused to shake his hand. The appeal board, however, said it was “highly unlikely that the one could be mistaken for the other”, so found the second charge proven “on the balance of probabilities”.

An additional sanction of a two-game suspension was imposed, along with a further £100 fine.

A statement from Arsenal read: “At Arsenal we do not accept or tolerate behaviour of this nature. We took appropriate action, suspending the coach immediately the allegation was brought to our attention. This was the first allegation of this nature in his long coaching career and he has been warned about his future conduct.”

The FA said it remained committed to supporting referees at grassroots level.