Footballers in England can be shown yellow cards or even sent off for deliberately coughing at opponents as part of new Covid-19 guidelines brought in by the Football Association.

Referees should act when they are “certain someone deliberately, and from close range, coughed into the face of an opponent or match official,” stated the new guidelines, which will be rolled out immediately at all levels of the game in England and will be in force while broader coronavirus restrictions are in place. 

The FA stated that the new sanctions will fall under the category of “using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures,” adding that “if the incident was not severe enough to merit a sending-off, a caution could be issued for ‘unsporting behavior – shows a lack of respect for the game’.”

It is understood that routine coughing without malice will not be punished. Players have already been encouraged to avoid spitting and do so only on the ground.

Professional clubs across England and elsewhere are already adapting to life in the age of coronavirus, playing matches behind closed doors and with measures ranging from disinfected balls to no pre-match handshakes between players.