Over the years racist chanting and banners have dogged the European stage. Clubs and players alike have all demanded action, have all appealed for more to be done however their cries nearly always fall on deaf ears. UEFA act yet their action is far too little, far too late.
This week President Michael Platini has announced that a new scheme will soon be implemented to allow officials to stop play for 10 minutes and if problems persist abandon them altogether. However the fact remains that UEFA have always acted far too leniently, lets look at some recent cases and punishments:
1. 20th April 2009 – Juventus 1-1 Internazionale – Sections of the Juventus crowd began chanting ‘a black Italian does not exist.’ Among other things directed towards Inter goal scorer Mario Balotelli. They will be forced to play one home game behind closed doors by the Italian League, it is not thought that UEFA will take action. Juventus have said they will appeal the decision.
2. 1st October 2008 – Atletico Madrid 2-1 Marseille – French fans were attacked by police and racist chanting from the home supporters was directed at Taye Taiwo. Rumours circulated that Ateltico fans were attacking black journalists. The Spanish club were forced to play their next three home games away from their home stadium of Vincente Calderon.
3. June 20th 2008 – Croatia 1-1 Turkey – Croatian fans displayed Nazi style banners and were singing Nazi marching songs during the European Championship Quarter Final which the Turks won via a penalty shoot out. UEFA fined the Croatian FA £9875.
4. 17th June 2007 – England U21 2-0 Serbia U21 – Many Serbian supporters were asked to ‘stop racist chanting or leave the stadium’ during the U21s’ victory in Serbia. Despite this then they continued and UEFA launched an investigation costing the Serbian FA £16500 in fines.
5. 17th November 2004 – Spain 1-0 England – Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright Phillips were subjected to ‘monkey chants’ during the ‘friendly’ in Madrid. UEFA fined the Spanish FA £20000. The England players’ refused to play a scheduled game in Madrid this year and the venue was changed.
So there we have it probably the five most high profile cases in recent years. What does UEFA honestly think they have achieved up to today? They have fined multi million pound corporations a pittance and this has only fuelled the rise in racist tensions on the terraces. They can not genuinely believe that their actions will prevent this sort of thing, only this year Sol Campbell was subjected to racial and homophobic chanting from Tottenham fans. When they allow characters like Luis Aragones to call Thierry Henry a ‘black shit’ and only fine him £2060 (a day’s wage) what example does this set to fans and youngsters watching the game?
It tells them that as long as they have a bit of cash they can really do what they want regardless of UEFA’s rules and regulations. Perhaps the most severe punishment that they have handed out is the one to Atletico as this will effect the genuine fans as well as the trouble makers, for this is the only way the game will change.
The new scheme to halt or abandon games has been a long time coming and if implemented correctly really could show a genuine change. The simple fact is that there are more fans that are not chanting than those that are therefore if all have to leave the stadium due to an abandoned game the real fans will not be happy. Peer pressure from one’s own supporters may well be the most effective tool left in UEFA’s armoury. Let’s just hope the officials are actually brave enough to use it.