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Arsenal academy coach banned and fined for calling female teenage referee a ‘little p***k’

An Arsenal academy coach has been banned and fined by the FA for calling a female teenage referee a ‘little p***k’ and reducing her to tears.

Alex Nichols, who was the head coach of Arsenal’s Under-9s team at the time of the incident, screamed and shouted at the girl, who was taking charge of a match against Reading earlier this year.

In an FA report, Nichols’ behaviour was described as ‘abhorrent’. He has since been banned for three games, fined £400 and moved to a general coaching role in the Gunners’ academy.

Arsenal coach Alex Nichols (right) has been banned and fined by the FA after the incident

Arsenal coach Alex Nichols (right) has been banned and fined by the FA after the incident

After the match in question, the girl, who the FA described as a ‘child referee’ and ‘a female minor’, refused to shake Nichols’ hand. 

The FA’s findings revealed that he muttered ‘how classy, little p***k’, although he later denied making the comment. 

Nichols was only found guilty of one charge of improper conduct and cleared of using abusive words following an initial hearing. 

The FA, however, appealed against the decision and a second hearing found him guilty of both offences. 

An Arsenal spokesman said: ‘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.’ 

Nichols (left) called a female teenage referee a 'little p***k' after a youth game with Reading

Nichols (left) called a female teenage referee a ‘little p***k’ after a youth game with Reading

Two of Reading’s coaches provided evidence against Nichols, who has been a youth coach for 12 years, nine of which have been spent at professional clubs. He had never previously been charged with an offence by the FA.

The evidence given during the hearing ‘paints an abhorrent picture of the behaviour of Mr Nichols during the fixture, particularly considering this was a match between under-9-year-old children. This chimed with the position of the FA’.

The FA’s lawyer said Nichols’ aggressive behaviour ‘continued throughout the game, was directed against a young female referee, a child and had left her crying’.

After first shouting to argue over a Reading goal which he claimed was offside, Nichols continued to loudly criticise the referee, who must be at least 14 due to FA rules.

The hearing’s findings state: ‘Following a collision of two players, Mr Nichols screamed at the top of his voice, “Ref that’s a penalty”. 

‘The referee was confident it was not, however Mr Nichols continued to question her decision, shouting and screaming at her and running down the sideline, leaving the referee feeling humiliated, belittled and bullied.

‘She asked him to go away. He responded that he was not going anywhere. He shouted other derogatory comments, such as “Oh my god!, Are you having a laugh!” and continued to challenge every decision she made.

Nichols has been a youth coach for 12 years, with nine of them spent at professional clubs

Nichols has been a youth coach for 12 years, with nine of them spent at professional clubs

‘When a Reading player was fouled and the referee blew her whistle to give him a free-kick, Mr Nichols then screamed “good tackle, keep doing what you’re doing”.’

The referee provided evidence that after the full-time whistle Nichols attempted to shake her hand but she refused because of the way he had behaved.

The findings say: ‘He then muttered “how classy, little prick”. She states that later, after his team had finished playing outside, he came to apologise to her but she declined his apology.’

In a written response to the hearing provided by Arsenal, Nichols admitted raising his voice. He conceded that this was inappropriate but denied shouting and running up and down the touchline.

The youth coach also denied abusing the referee after the game had finished, claiming he said “OK fine” after she refused to shake his hand. 

On this, the panel said: ‘We remain of the view that it is highly unlikely that the referee would have misheard “OK, fine” for “how classy, little prick”.’ 

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