As part of Covid-19 measures, footballers can now be sent off for couging deliberately at opponents or match officials say the sport’s rule-makers and England’s Football Association.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) say the referee is to judge whether the cough was an abusive gesture.
IFAB now classifies deliberate coughing as similar to “using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures”.This is to come into force with immediate effect.
“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.”
“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.
It however cautions referees not to look to punish “routine” coughing saying “action can only be supported where it is evident it was a clear act against someone else”.