FIFA Needs To Take Hard Line On Racism

Courtesy: Champions League Facebook Page

It seems that we are no closer to actually ‘kicking’ racism out of football and it is not in small part thanks to stupidly minor punishments that are handed out to sides found guilty.

Olympiacos of Greece were recently found guilty of having fans setting off fireworks and the ‘racist conduct of supporters.’ The punishment for this was handed out earlier and along with just over a $67,000 fine, they will have to play the home game, in the Champions League, with an empty North stand.

Zenit St Petersburg were also fined just under $90,000 when their fans displayed a racist banner in the game against Austria Vienna in the last Champions League Group game. Again, along with the fine, is a partial empty stadium against Borussia Dortmund. UEFA did not disappoint with their actions. The ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ and the anti-racism mantra peddled by these guys in charge of the beautiful game is made a mockery when it comes to the punishment.

I had written after the CSKA Moscow against Manchester City game about the small fines and token gestures towards eradicating racism in the game. Comparing racism fines with the one of Nicklas Bendtner ($130,000), who revealed the top of his underwear with a sponsors name across the band. The penalty for racist abuse in this case? A partial stadium closure for their next Champions League home game.

Yes, that is all the punishment handed out for the World Cup host country for 2018. Meanwhile in Bulgaria, fans of Botev Plovdiv hit an official with an object and their side have to play their next home game behind closed doors and were fined $2,800. Meanwhile in Brazil, Vasco da Gama and Corinthians were both ordered to play their next four home games without their own supporters following crowd trouble.

What do we take from this? That domestic governing bodies come down harder on abuse, whether physical or verbal, than UEFA and FIFA. It seems these bodies see a player giving a sponsor free advertising a harsher punishment than racism and that is no deterrent at all.

Back in the 1980s, when hooliganism was the unwanted part of English football, the governing bodies had no concerns about banning the entire country from participating in European club competition. Slapping sides with small fines and a partial stadium closure will do nothing to rectify the situation and I have my own view on what should happen in cases and I will outline it for you now.
If racist incidents happen in the Group stage of the Europa or Champions League and a side is found guilty, then the guilty side takes no part in the rest of that competition. In the CSKA incident this season, it would mean they would take no part in the final three games of the Group and therefore no progression. They would be eligible to qualify for the next year’s competition, but obviously only if it was a first offense. A second offense could see them go into European exile for future competitions.
With the current Olympiacos and Zenit incidents, I think the two clubs should be removed and the other teams from the group moved up. That would mean Benfica, as third place in the Olympiacos group, would now face Manchester United in the last 16 of Champions League and FC Porto, third in Zenit’s group, would face Dortmund.
The fourth placed sides would then take these teams places in the Europa League and while it may throw up some teams from the same country playing each other, I think it would be preferable over the alternative. Just out of interest, Anderlecht would now face PAOK  and Austria Vienna would face Eintracht Frankfurt. 
It may not be an ideal solution, but I think you have to go zero tolerance on this issue if you are going to have clubs and some supporters changing their attitude.
Jason Bardwell is a Soccer writer for Rant Sports and The Sports Column. You can follow him on Twitter @PACityboy or on Facebook

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