Arsenal Academy coach Alex Nichols has been banned for three matches by the FA and fined £400 after he was found guilty of swearing at a teenage girl who refereed an under-9s match, reducing her to tears as he called her a ‘little prick’.
The Times report that Nichol’s behaviour was called ‘abhorrent’ by the disciplinary panel “which found Alex Nichols screamed and shouted at the girl, described in its findings as a “child referee” and “a female minor” — referees have to be 14 before they can take charge of a junior match.”
Nichols was the head coach of Arsenal’s u9s but has since been moved to a ‘more general coaching position in the academy,’ says The Times. They also note that it’s not clear if the move was in response to this incident.
The match was taking place between Arsenal and Reading, featuring eight and nine-year-olds.
Initially, Nichols was cleared of using abusive words towards the referee after the game but the FA appealed the verdict and he was found guilty of two charges (the other was improper conduct). The referee had refused to shake his hand after the match, prompting Nichols to mutter “how classy, little prick,” a charge he denied.
I seriously hope that the club looks at this matter now that a verdict has been delivered because it beggars belief that a man can be allowed to coach kids when this is how he treats teenage officials. Football is already like the Catholic Church in that it simply moves inappropriate people around rather than holding them to account properly. Arsenal must demand better standards of those it employs to work with children.
It is one thing for a grown man to verbally abuse another but to respond like this to a teenage girl shows a distinct lack of self-control and good judgement. One of the key roles of a coach in charge of children should be the ability to set a good example of how to deal with life in general and in-game problems particularly.
What has Nichols taught the players who look up to him here? What message will Arsenal send about the treatment of minors in its care?
To do nothing further would send a very strong message indeed.