Guidance on offensive, insulting, abusive or intimidating language and/or gestures

June 8th, 2022

NCF today (8 June 2022) issued the following information to all clubs, match officials and the judiciary.

We have received complaints about inappropriate language and behaviour on and off the pitch and want all clubs and match officials to help improve the match day experience to ensure football is a welcoming and family-friendly place.

Language and gestures are evolving. It needs to be managed with common sense to match situations and today’s standards. This year, NCF has, in some cases, doubled and tripled sanctions for players and team officials found guilty of match official abuse (link). Whatever decisions are made by match officials will be supported by NCF. This memo aims to help match officials deal with incidents and explain to players, team officials, committees and spectators what they can expect from match officials and the judiciary.

There are several scenarios where “offensive, insulting, abusive or intimidating” language and behaviour occur. Match officials are advised to take the following actions:

  • A player or team official acts in frustration that can be heard in their vicinity but not widely – that’s a warning or caution (yellow) for unsporting conduct.
  • A player or team official acts in frustration or motivation that everyone can hear and see on and off the pitch – that’s a warning, caution (yellow) for unsporting conduct or a red (R6 Grade 1).
  • A player or team official intentionally using offensive, insulting or abusive language or behaviours requires a sterner approach: If it is aimed at another player, use R6 Grade 2, match official use R8 Grades 2, 3 or 4, team official use R6 Grade 2 or spectator use R6 Grade 2. A caution (yellow) for unsporting conduct can be used in ‘mild’ or low-level cases.
  • There are also other provisions for offences against match officials. These are coded R9 with eight grades.

If there are incidents involving spectators, Match Officials and clubs should fill in an incident report (link). NCF will follow through and may respond following the FA Code of Conduct and Ethics (link).

We want everyone involved to know that poor language and behaviour are unacceptable on or around the pitch. We want matchdays to be an enjoyable experience for everyone and appreciate the cooperation of clubs and match officials.


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