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Sunday, 19 March 2006

2919: FIFA: Racism Penalties for Clu

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by : Bill Urban

FIFA: Racism Penalties for Clubs... Only?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that clubs whose supporters engage in racist chanting at matches will be punished. In typical draconian and misguided fashion, the penalties to be imposed vary from match suspension, although it’s unclear how this represents much of a punishment, to points deduction on an increasing scale culminating in the horrors of imposed relegation and exclusion from international competition for repeat offenders.

While perhaps Blatter should be complimented for his willingness to acknowledge the increase in racist incidents at club matches in recent years, a little analysis of the man and his mojo reveal that the likelihood that Blatter’s plan will be adopted, and more importantly enforced, remains about as likely as Himself developing the character traits of tact and diplomacy.

One fundamental problem with punishing clubs for the actions of supporters is that the offenders themselves might well remain unpunished. Clubs in countries like Italy and Spain have taken up this banner in repeat fashion, claiming that it is unfair and unjust to punish the many for the admittedly reprehensible actions of the few.

I would submit, however, that if the curvas where the racist chanting is most prevalent were emptied, the clubs would be looking at a serious reduction in ticket receipts, hence their unwillingness to confront the offenders.

Tough. At a minimum, the stadium in which a match is played should be made safe for supporters as a condition of the price of admission. That places the responsibility for the conduct of the supporters squarely on the shoulders of the clubs and the stadium authorities. The responsibility for stamping out racist chanting follows along accordingly.

And a touch of coming down from the Continental high horse of stereotypic assumption that all British supporters are drunken hooligans might be an advantageous approach as well. British football had its own problems with racism, and has done a very good job at attacking racism in its stadiums. A little consultation between associations and club officials appears to be well in order, particularly since point penalties were not used in attacking racism in the British game.

Never mind that, does not fit with the latest Imperial Utterance from Darth Blatter, the punishment of clubs for the actions of supporters is justified by FIFA edict, Official World Cup Tap Water masquerading as beer for everyone.

Except that there are a few holes in Blatter’s approach, as tends to be the case with all the pompous pronouncements and penny simple solutions put forth in Sepp conferences.

There is a well documented history among Eastern European clubs of supporters donning the kit of opposition supporters as a prelude to infiltrating and attacking them. Furthermore, racist incidents, and in particular anti-Jewish chanting and violence, are prevalent in several of the same Eastern European countries. If the supporters are willing to adopt the colours of opposing supporters for violent purposes, surely they might well be willing to chant as long and loudly as possible in as filthy a method as they can muster in an attempt to get points deducted from the opposition’s season total.

Mention of the likelihood, indeed the virtual certainty, of this sort of occurrence was absent from Blatter’s proposal.

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