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.
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).
Yet 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.
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 clubs‘ behaviour 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.