With Euro 2012 officially in the books, and the Spanish team showing that they are still the best national team around (and one of the best ever), the question of the best team and best player – Andres Iniesta – has been answered. One question that hasn’t, though, is when will UEFA get serious with tackling racist abuse of players by fans?
There were several fines handed down by UEFA to national Football Associations for the improper conduct of fans, as well as one fine for “improper conduct” to Nicklas Bendtner for wearing sponsored pants. The amounts shed light on where UEFA’s priorities lie:
Spain were fined €20,000 for racially abusing Mario Balotelli
Russia were fined €30,000 for making monkey noises at Czech Republic right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie.
Croatia were fined €30,000 for displaying racist banners in their match against Spain, then fined a further €80,000 for racial abuse of Mario Balotelli. Clearly the first fine had a massive effect.
Bendtner, however, was fined €100,000 for his Paddy Power pants.
Ambush marketing a worse crime in the eyes of UEFA than racial abuse? Given these fine amounts, it would seem so. Given that the racism fines were handed out to the Football Associations of each respective country, and Bendtner was fined as an individual (and given a one match suspension for Denmark’s next match, a World Cup qualifier) it makes them seem like even more token gestures. When you look at the amounts of prize money from the tournament, UEFA’s lack of real action appears even more stark:
Somehow I think that between the three nations, a cumulative fine of €160,000 will be more than tackled by a total prize money of €44,000,000.
Another interesting little side note is that Russia also have a suspended 6 point deduction hanging over their heads for the Euro 2016 qualifying phase, but UEFA chose not to activate it.
Personally, I believe that the best way for UEFA to tackle racism and fan problems is to hit those that it hurts the most – the fans. Remember when English clubs weren’t able to take part in Europena competitions because of hooliganism fears? That forced the hand of the FA, clubs and fan groups to get things sorted out, and I think that this is the direction UEFA ought to head in. My ideas include
- Matches at tournaments played without fans of guilty teams – eg, at fist group game of World Cup 2014, Spain play with no Spanish fans.
- Point deductions – either from qualifying or in the group stages of the next tournament. For instance, deduct 2 points for each incident of racist abuse by fans, either in a tournament, in qualifying or in friendly matches. So for example, going into the next qualifying period, Spain are deducted 2 points, Russia 2 points and Croatia 4 points. If you limit the chances of the team qualifying, then the fans might peer-pressure each other into not shouting abuse, or carrying racist banners.
- Take away prize money. Paltry fines don’t work, set a double standard and just make UEFA look either ineffective or negligent. If you deduct 25% of prize money for each instance of racist abuse (and in my mind, donate that 25% to charities fighting bigotry and intolerance in sport) then the FA in that country will work a hell of a lot harder to police things in the stands and make a stand, since they will be hit in the pocket.
- Any combination of the above. If there are persistent breaches of the law, then they can be punished with a combination of actions.
Until UEFA show that they are serious about tackling racism in football, then it will be there, it will be blatant, and it will get worse. This is not a time for administrators to hide behind weak rules and cowardly attempts at enforcement, this is a time and an opportunity to really send a message.