Footballers could be prosecuted if they spit during matches, Waltham Forest Council has admitted.

The council last year said it would push to prosecute people caught spitting under powers available to local authorities, and it has said places such as public football pitches are not exempt.

Last week Enfield Council, which has also introduced a ban, sent letters to amateur football clubs warning them that players could be prosecuted.

And while Waltham Forest Council said targeting footballers was not a priority, it admitted no one was exempt from action if they are caught spitting on public land.

Ged Walker is general secretary of Globe Rangers FC, an amateur football team based in Walthamstow, which was warned by Enfield Council.

He believes it is natural for footballers to spit and any problems should be dealt with by the game’s authorities.

He said: “Players do generate moisture in the throat and it’s only natural.

"If they were spitting at each other that would be different and there’s laws imposed in any sport by the appropriate bodies to deal with it.”

Brian Robinson, 74, is president and chairman of Old Parmiterians Football Club, based in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow.

And he believes all athletes should be exempt from the ban.

He said: "I’m shocked that the council permit the same law for someone spitting in the street as someone spitting whilst playing football.

"I don’t think any athlete can avoid spitting, as its all part of being an athlete. If a player is running around a pitch and he spits it’s because he needs to clear his lungs."

Hale End Athletic Football Club was founded 85 years ago and plays at Wadham Lodge Sports Groound in Walthamstow.

Secretary John Brooks, 70, says spitting has become more prevalent and blames players at the top of the game.

He said: "I don't remember people spitting all the time whilst playing football, it comes from the very top premiership teams.

"Youngsters are encouraged to do this from watching their idols on TV and I don't think it is pleasant.”

A council Spokesman said: “This is not our area of priority – we are more focused on town centre locations as part of our campaign to keep the environment cleaner and greener.

“There isn’t anywhere we could make exempt. The local authority adheres to the Environmental Protection Act which applies to all public places.”