UEFA has announced that it has commenced disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro after English players were on the receiving end of racist chants from spectators in Montenegro. England players, including Raheem Sterling who scored the final goal in England’s 5-1 victory, were subjected to racist abuse from the stands.
Gareth Southgate firmly rebuked such conduct from the Montenegro fans, stating: “We had an excellent performance and we’ve got an 18-year-old being interviewed after the game and he’s having to respond to what’s happened when his evening should be about the joy of his full debut.”
Going further, Southgate said it was “clear to everybody that there were comments made”.
Sports Shorts has before reviewed the mechanism by which governing bodies in football tackle racism, remarking that the current state of affairs inadequately addresses racism in the sport. FIFA had established an anti-racism task force to deal with the issue but it subsequently announced that the task force had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”, which was to develop concrete solutions to fight discrimination in football and strengthen FIFA’s approach to the issue.
Indeed, following the match, Ian Wright complained that “You have got to protect your players, they will probably go to Uefa and they will fine them a pittance amount as a deterrent”.
“Nothing will happen and we will probably get the same thing here at some stage again or somewhere else in Europe because they don’t do enough to stop it.”
Montenegro has been charged by UEFA for setting off fireworks, throwing objects, racist behaviour, crowd disturbances and the blocking of stairways. UEFA has announced that the case will be dealt with by its Control, Ethics and Disciplinary committee on May 16.
Article 14 of UEFA’s Disciplinary Regulations governs what UEFA can do in instances of racism. The minimum punishment outlined in Article 14(2) imposes a partial stadium closure on the member association or club. Where the member association or club reoffends, one match shall be played behind closed doors and a fine of EUR 50,000 is imposed. Further fines, point deductions, disqualification from competitions and forfeitures are also available. Individuals guilty of racism can be banned for a minimum of ten matches as per Article 14(1) of the Disciplinary Regulations.
The FA has a softer approach, imposing five-match bans on players found guilty of racism under FA Rule E3(3). A second offence, however, will lead to an automatic minimum ban of 10 matches in addition to a financial penalty. Peter Beardsley was recently charged by the FA under Rule E3 after allegations that he used abusive and insulting words against Newcastle Under 23 players, whom he used to coach.
Greg Clarke, Chairman of the FA, opened UEFA’s Equal Game Conference this month admitting “We must do more in England, including here at The English FA, and we must do more across Europe and we must do this together”. He referred to UEFA’s Three-Step Protocol, which enables a referee to stop the match if “racist behaviour is of a strong magnitude and intensity”. However, Clarke argues “There should be no judgement call on whether something is of a strong magnitude. Racism is racism.”
Just this week, Juventus striker Moise Kean suffered racist abuse from Cagliari fans. After scoring a late goal, he celebrated in front of the fans by standing still with his arms held high, posting later on social media that it was “the best way to respond to racism”. He, however, failed to receive support from his manager, Massimiliano Allegri, and team captain, Leonardo Bonucci, who went as far as to say that “the blame is 50-50” between the Cagliari fans and the teenager. Kean’s teammate Blaise Matuidi responded during the racist abuse by threatening to walk off the pitch.
Perhaps it is time for FIFA, UEFA and national FAs to fully mobilise their arsenal and invoke a zero tolerance stance against racism in its competitions. It is clear that partial stadium closures and fines are inadequate in tackling and deterring racism. Football clubs and member associations will start listening when points are deducted or matches are abandoned. As Ian Wright said, the fines involved so far are “pittance” in the world of football.