An Arsenal youth coach who reduced a young, female referee to tears after a game has been banned for three matches and fined £400.

A disciplinary panel labelled the behaviour of Alex Nichols, an Under-9s coach at Arsenal, as “abhorrent” and “wholly inappropriate” after the young referee – described as a female minor – declined to shake his hand.

Mr Nichols responded by saying “how classy, little p****” for which he was given an additional charge of using “abusive and/or insulting words”.

The incident occurred after a game between Reading U9s and Arsenal U9s during which Mr Nichols admitted to using “improper language and/or behaviour” when he protested about a Reading goal, which he claimed was offside, and then questioned the young official’s decision not to award a penalty in the second half.

“Mr Nichols continued to question her decision, shouting and screaming at her and running down the side line, leaving the referee feeling humiliated, belittled and bullied,” the findings stated.

He accepted using improper language but denied his words were abusive, claiming he had responded to the referee refusing to shake his hand by saying “ok, fine”.

Mr Nichols was originally cleared by a three-member regulatory commission of this charge, but an appeals panel subsequently overturned the decision, and said Mr Nichols’ behaviour was “wholly inappropriate” for an U9s coach toward a child referee and demonstrated “a wholesale disregard for the upset that had already been caused”.

His original one-game ban and fine of £300 was extended to three games and £400.

An Arsenal spokesperson responded to the findings with a statement that 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 youngest age a referee can be to take charge of youth games is 14, and they are required to complete an FA Referee Course.

Source: Evening Standard