UEFA must take control of racism issue
Published: 22.10.12 / Written by: David Gold
UEFA are under pressure once again after the racism storm provoked by the abuse of England’s Danny Rose during an under 23 European Championship qualifier in Serbia.
It was not the first time an England player has been abused in Serbia, but it may be the last if UEFA don’t act. England have threatened not to travel to the country again as a result.
An unseemly spat with the Serbian Football Association aside, this is the time for UEFA to act. It is true, we English are quite pious and quick to get on our moral high horse when foreigners are to blame. When it is us, we are pretty slow, if able at all, to raise the same level of moral hysteria.
Yet that does not mean that Serbia’s fans are not guilty of some of the most disgraceful abuse which Rose had to endure. The Sunderland man has admitted that he had been unable to concentrate properly so vociferous was the abuse. And why? Because of the colour of his skin? Ridiculous.
There is no grey area on this issue. Serbia must be punished. Whether kicking them out of international football altogether is a good idea or not is open to debate. But a hefty fine, or playing games behind closed doors, may be a better one. Serbia must have a punishment which really hits home and makes them wake up. At the same time, it is important not to cause problems for innocent parties. Should Serbian youth players be banned from playing international football because they have a few racists cheering them on? Probably not. That would be too extreme.
But Serbia cannot get away with such vile and disgraceful behaviour from those supporters who were guilty. UEFA makes a big play about racism but the numerous paltry fines handed out to national associations guilty of abuse is a damning indictment. They need to be seen to take this issue seriously, and not just talk tough incessantly without taking real action.
It is irrelevant to come up with schemes and good words, if the actions at the end are not matched. The true test of UEFA’s intolerance of intolerance is in decisions like this one. Tackling racism in football is a difficult issue. It is shameful but true, there are countries behind others. Not all countries have the same standards. What is racist in one country is not in another. But this issue is clear cut. To victimise someone for the colour of their skin goes too far. And on the face of it, there are too few black players in Serbia in their top teams. The same accusations can be made at certain other countries. Russia currently is battling to gain credibility on the racism issue before they host the 2018 World Cup. But what will help to create a more tolerant world will be for important bodies like UEFA to make a clear stand against abuse.