UEFA’s pitiful response to racism at Euro 2012 should worry us all

The inadequate fine handed to Croatia is another sign of a governing body that cares more for technicalities than for the welfare of black and Asian players.

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On Tuesday, European football’s governing body, UEFA, fined the Croatian Football Federation £65,000 after up to 500 of their fans racially abused the Italian striker Mario Balotelli during the two nations’ Group C game on Thursday (Balotelli, though, didn’t kill anyone in response).

Mario-BalotelliYet the decision, coming only a few days after Denmark’s Niklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for an advertising stunt during a match – specifically, revealing underwear sponsored by a bookmaker – has angered anti-racism groups such as Show Racism The Red Card, whose spokesperson observed:

“When Croatia are fined less than Nicklas Bendtner for wearing dodgy underpants, it sends out the wrong message.

“It suggests that if you upset our sponsors that you will get a bigger fine than a team whose fans are guilty of racism and that is unwelcome

“It is a shame because the overall message on anti-racism has been really strong and that has come from Michel Platini at the top to the billboards at the grounds.”

As today’s Independent notes:

Although the fine is higher than similar, recent instances – Porto had to pay a quarter of that sum following racist conduct towards Balotelli in February – Uefa has drawn strong criticism for viewing racism as a less-serious offence than Nicklas Bendtner showing off branded pants.

[The] common belief is that UEFA has its priorities wrong.

Apparently so. Euro 2012 is a tournament increasingly mired in racism – both from visiting sets of fans and from the hosts themselves – and, given the furore surrounding the Panorama film Stadiums of Hate beforehand, it’s not like UEFA didn’t see it coming.


See also:

Euro 2012: Prepare for racism, anti-Semitism and violence in Poland and Ukraine 29 May 2012


Their obvious complacency over the matter is compounded, in the first place, by their dubious track record: most recently, their handling of the aforementioned incident involving Balotelli and Porto fans provoked outrage when Manchester City were given a much larger fine for arriving on the pitch in a subsequent Europa League match against Sporting Lisbon.

Yet equally at issue is UEFA’s abdication from its duty at a time when racist abuse, and allegations of racist abuse, are far from uncommon throughout European football, and when certain clubsbehaviour has been all but complicit in that abuse. The anti-racism efforts of European football are dangerously close to becoming all bark and no bite – a highly visible stance on the issue, devalued by a lack of decisive action when it counts.

We cannot afford to let the game return to the 1980s. At the same time, we cannot begin to redress the balance without a governing body that actually cares.


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