Football Association plans to tackle abuse and discrimination in grassroots football by deducting points from clubs have been warmly welcomed by campaigners, who say punishments should be extended to cover fan behaviour and apply up the football pyramid too.
Rules announced by the governing body, to be implemented from the 2023-24 season, will lead to clubs below step six in the men’s game, and in tier three and below in the women’s, being docked points if players or coaches engage in discriminatory language or misconduct against a match official on more than one occasion across 12 months. The two-strikes rule would mean a club losing three to six points, with that potentially rising to 12 points for further offences.
The FA’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, said: “We frequently hear from grassroots participants that player behaviour is a growing issue and we’re determined to change this. We hope this proves to be a strong deterrent which helps to improve the culture within the grassroots game. We’re also working with the professional leagues and other stakeholders to tackle poor behaviour in the professional game and will provide an update on this ahead of next season.”
The head of grassroots and community at Kick It Out, Tajean Hutton, commended the FA for acting. “This is something we saw as a long-term ambition at Kick it Out; these things usually take a lot of time,” he said. “The FA have brought it to the table and got it done a lot quicker than we imagined.”
Points sanctions have been in the headlines as a possible response to the ongoing racist abuse of Vinícius Júnior in Spain, with La Liga’s president, Javier Tebas, last week giving his support to the idea. Hutton said there was no reason why sanctions should not be applied to the actions of clubs’ fans or extended to the top of the game.
“I don’t think it should even be a question as to whether or not it should be applied more broadly,” he said. “Football clubs prioritise two things: winning and income. When you use sanctions to put those things in jeopardy, individuals who will otherwise turn a blind eye to discrimination are all of a sudden looking for ways to help the cause.”