Match officials have been issued with guidance on offences involving religious head coverings after Sky Sports and former referee Jarnail Singh raised concerns about an incident involving a Sikh-Punjabi footballer.
In a Spartan South Midlands League match at the beginning of January, Langford FC midfielder Charan Basra was shown a second yellow card for his reaction after an opposing player appeared to tug at his patka, which is a religious head covering worn by many Sikhs.
The referee appeared not to see the original incident, but it caused a stir on Twitter in the days that followed after initially being shared online by social media handle @UB1UB2.
Sky Sports’ British South Asians in Football lead Dev Trehan took up the issue directly with the first turbaned referee in English league football, Jarnail Singh, who refereed more than 150 matches across the divisions between 2004 and 2010.
Less than 48 hours earlier, Jarnail had watched his youngest son Bhupinder Singh Gill make history as the first Sikh-Punjabi ever to take up the role of assistant referee for a Premier League game – after Sky Sports News exclusively broke the story in December.
Jarnail’s eldest son, Sunny Singh Gill, is the country’s highest-ranked South Asian heritage match referee.
Jarnail liaised directly with colleagues at the Referees’ Association, the FA Refereeing Department and the FA Referees’ Committee, offering insight on the significance and importance that Sikhs attach to religious head coverings like turbans and patkas.
Just over a fortnight after initiating contact with refereeing authorities about the matter, Sky Sports News can exclusively reveal match officials across the country have now been issued with specific guidance relating to such incidents.
Match officials have been told that a head covering such as a patka or a turban is considered a religious article of faith. Touching one without permission should be deemed an offensive action under Law 12 of the FA Handbook relating to fouls and misconduct.
The offence should be punishable by a mandatory red card if seen and should be treated as an S6 breach – using offensive, insulting and/or abusive language and or action(s).
The FA confirmed the guidance “applies to all religious head coverings.”.
Peter Elsworth, FA Head of Referee Operations, said: “We are determined to stamp out all forms of offensive and discriminatory behaviour from our game, and we have confirmed to our network of match officials that they should send off any player that deliberately touches a religious head covering of another player in an inappropriate way.
“Football is played and enjoyed by many communities across the country, and we want to do everything we can to ensure they are protected and supported at all times.”.
Jarnail Singh told Sky Sports News: “I’m very happy that we were able to contribute to educating and improving understanding about South Asians and Sikh communities in football.
“This is an excellent example of cooperation and collaboration from everyone involved, especially the chair of the FA Referees’ Committee and the FA Referees’ Department.
“It’s a real pleasure to come together with Dev, Sky Sports, the Football Association and the refereeing family to help promote equality and inclusion for diverse ethnic communities in football.”.
Trehan told Sky Sports News: “Jarnail is a Sikh-Punjabi trailblazer and a British South Asians in Football icon. To work together with him on something like this and yield such a positive result is a moment to cherish and savour for everyone associated with the ‘Beautiful Game’. I’m sure Langford FC midfielder Charan Basra, who is a fine role model himself, will also take great satisfaction from this outcome.
“Credit must go to all of those involved in this process as well as @UB1UB2 and the Sikh Press Association for pushing this, and also our digital teams and output editors at Sky Sports News for continuing to support our truly game-changing work around British South Asians in Football.”.
Singh: A tremendous day for English football
Apna England official supporters’ group spokesperson Micky Singh told Sky Sports News: “This feels unprecedented and it offers a sense of freedom and preservation for Sikhs and every patka-wearing footballer that has ever been involved in the game.
“I can’t explain what it feels like knowing that my grandson would now be afforded a level of protection and respect for his faith if he made it all the way through to the elite game.
“This is momentous for Sikhs, a game-changer for British South Asians, and a tremendous day for English football.
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The country’s first Sikh female Member of Parliament, Preet Kaur Gill, told Sky Sports News: “It’s clear that there is still some way to go in terms of education and understanding around Sikh articles of faith.
“Respect for all people of all faiths and no faiths is really important on and off the pitch. It’s important for the football authorities to address this, so that we don’t see incidents like this going forward.”.
Britain’s first turbaned Sikh Member of Parliament, Tan Dhesi, told Sky Sports News: “As a turbaned Sikh, whose young boys also love playing football, I’m extremely grateful to former referee Jarnail Singh, Dev Trehan, the Sky Sports team, @UB1UB2 and the Sikh Press Association for intervening in this sensitive, important matter. The issuing of guidance on religious head coverings will be especially appreciated by British Sikhs.”.
British South Asians in Football
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