REFEREE Keith Stroud appeared to breach Covid-19 rules by KISSING the ball.
The 51-year-old took charge of Watford's 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on Friday.
But he caused a stir as he led the players out onto the pitch before kick-off.
Video footage appears to show Stroud pick up the match ball then kiss it.
Players and officials have been warned against this due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The footballs are being regularly cleaned before and during matches to lower the risk of spreading germs.
But Stroud seems to brazenly violated the new guidelines in front of the TV cameras.
After a clip of the kiss went viral on Twitter, one fan said: "Keith Stroud ignoring Covid guidance to ensure he still kisses the ball pre-kick off is about as #CelebrityRefs as it gets."
Another added: "What the hell is the point of all the Covid rules and sanitising at football if the bloody referee is going to kiss the match ball?"
One joked: "Perhaps that's how he tests the ball… by giving it a snog."
And one Twitter user asked: "I can't be the only one who saw Keith Stroud kiss the ball when he picked it up?"
His controversial decision to kiss the ball came after Argentine midfielder Sergio Lopez was fined for the same offence.
Lopez was handed a £1,000 fine for kissing the match ball after SD Aucas won their match in Ecuador.
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