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 May 7 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 obtained by Press Association Sport on Friday 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.
A statement given to Press Association Sport on Friday morning read: “We have a number of interventions to tackle abuse of grassroots referees.
“Our relaunch of Respect (campaign) under the banner ‘We Only Do Positive’ is focused on improving the behaviour of coaches and parents as well as a pilot introduction of temporary dismissals, or sin bins, at step 7 and below.”
Arsenal, meanwhile, have confirmed staff at the Emirates Stadium have been given additional training and more pest-proofing measures put in place to help deal with “extensive evidence of mouse activity” which had been highlighted by council hygiene inspectors.
“We have always taken hygiene matters extremely seriously and have increased our actions to ensure Emirates Stadium exceeds the recommendations made back in 2016,” a club statement read.
“Increased visits from pest control experts, independent audits, additional staff training and substantial investment in proofing have all been implemented.”
Arsenal boss Unai Emery is expected to strengthen his squad in the summer transfer market.
Talks are said to be at an advanced stage to sign Belgium winger Yannick Carrasco, who joined Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang during February.