"It just comes down to being educated. It's an awareness."
A Sikh footballer who was sent off for confronting an opponent who tugged on his head covering has welcomed an FA rule update for referees.
At the beginning of January 2023, midfielder Charan Singh Basra received a second yellow card for his reaction after an opposing player tugged at his patka, a head covering worn by many Sikhs.
It prompted numerous complaints to The Football Association (FA).
The FA has now told officials that what happened to Charan could be a red card offence.
According to the new guidance, referees should send off any player who deliberately and inappropriately touches a religious head covering.
Charan, who plays for Langford FC, a semi-pro side in the Spartan South Midlands League. said the change is “needed” after his experience.
He said: “You get people saying stuff now and again.”
But the incident “was the first time anyone’s ever touched my patka”.
Charan said: “It just comes down to being educated. It’s an awareness.
“Half the time the players do it not with the intention of being racist, they just aren’t aware that it’s such a significant part of a Sikh’s identity.”
Jarnail Singh, who was the first Sikh referee in English football, bring it to the FA’s attention.
He liaised directly with colleagues at the Referees’ Association, the FA Refereeing Department and the FA Referees’ Committee, offering insight into the significance and importance that Sikhs attach to religious head coverings like turbans and patkas.
Jarnail said he “wanted to raise awareness around the significance of the patka, hijab, and any other articles of faith worn by any player or referee”.
He added: “If we don’t act upon these kind of incidents, it could put off the next generation of children from getting involved in sport.”
Match officials across the country have now been issued with specific guidance relating to such incidents.
The FA said it has written to all match officials across the English game to outline the new guidance, which looks to “stamp out discrimination” in the sport.
In a statement, the FA said: “The guidance confirms that touching religious head coverings without an individual’s permission is an offensive act, given it is an article of faith.
“Therefore, if an incident of this nature occurs during a match and is seen by the match officials, it is to be considered a red card offence.”
Welcoming the FA rule update, Jarnail Singh told Sky Sports:
“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 [Trehan], Sky Sports, the Football Association and the refereeing family to help promote equality and inclusion for diverse ethnic communities in football.”