Soccer-English grassroots teams to be docked points for repeated misconduct

FILE PHOTO: Euro 2020 - England Press Conference

(Reuters) - Grassroots soccer teams will be deducted points for repeated offences of serious misconduct, England's Football Association (FA) said on Tuesday as it announced sanctions to combat an increase in levels of abuse towards referees.

The Football Regulatory Authority has approved the decision, which has been ratified by the FA Council for amateur leagues for the start of the 2023-24 season.

"The tougher sanctions follow consistent feedback from across grassroots football that player behaviour is a significant issue, and will specifically target offending teams where its participants commit serious misconduct," the FA said.

The points deductions will apply to clubs at step seven and below in the men's game, and clubs across the third tier and below in the women's soccer pyramid.

Cumulative incidents of serious misconduct can include acts of discrimination and assault or attempted assault, and physical contact or attempted physical contact against a match official, the FA said.

"This is a significant step for grassroots football in England, and clearly outlines our commitment to tackle incidents of serious misconduct," FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.

"Unacceptable behaviour towards other players and officials will not be tolerated. We hope this proves to be a strong deterrent which helps to improve the culture within the grassroots game."

In February, A BBC questionnaire responded to by more than 900 amateur referees revealed worrying levels of abuse and intimidation with multiple cases of death threats being made.

The FA banned 380 players and coaches last year for attacking or threatening referees and match officials.

Bullingham said the FA is also working with the professional leagues about tackling "poor behaviour" and will provide an update before the next season begins.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Ken Ferris)