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Arsenal youth coach banned after aggressive behaviour towards referee

During the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Fulham FC at Emirates Stadium on January 1, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.

An Arsenal youth coach has been banned and fined by the FA after his "aggressive" behaviour reduced a female teenage referee to tears.

Alex Nichols is said to have left the female official - described as a 'child referee' - feeling "humiliated, belittled and bullied" after prolonged and "increasingly aggressive" outbursts from the sideline during an U9's game, according to the FA's written reasons.

It was alleged Mr Nichols shouted derogatory comments, such as "Oh my god!" and "Are you having a laugh?!", and continued to challenge every decision she made after his team conceded what he perceived to be an offside goal, before later being denied a penalty.

The report also states that Mr Nichols was asked by the official to "go away" after "screaming at her and running down the sideline", to which he "responded that he was going nowhere".

Nichols admitted a charge of improper conduct, accepting that at some points during the match his behaviour was inappropriate for an U9 game.

Evidence submitted by two members of the coaching staff from opposition club Reading noted the referee was crying during the closing moments of the game, and described Nichols' demeanour as "intimidating."

In a statement issued via Arsenal, he denied that he shouted, but acknowledged he later raised his voice. However, he refuted that after the incident he carried on shouting and screaming and running up and down the side line.

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Nichols strongly denied a second charge of using abusive and/or insulting language towards a referee after being accused by the official of replying "how classy, little prick" when she refused to shake hands at the end of the game.

Nichols told the commission he responded to the handshake snub by simply replying "OK fine" before walking away.

In a written response to the panel relating to the first charge, Arsenal said that "aside from Mr Nichols' behaviour following the penalty decision, he behaved in his normal way, no different from how he has performed his role as a coach for the previous 12 years."

On the second charge, Arsenal revealed he had never used such language at work before and had never been accused of using such language.

The appeals panel decided that on the balance of probabilities, the referee, despite being in an emotional state, was highly unlikely to have misheard the exchange at the final whistle.

They concluded Nichols had displayed wholly inappropriate conduct for a coach of Under 9s towards a child referee.

Nichols was disciplined immediately (before the club received notice of the charge from The FA) and he was removed from coaching duties and excluded for a number of Academy matches in line with the club's safeguarding procedures. He was also given an official disciplinary warning from Arsenal.

An Arsenal spokesperson told Sky Sports News: "This is an internal matter. At Arsenal, we do not accept or tolerate behaviour of this nature, and the appropriate actions have been taken."

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