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FIFPro welcomes the policy UEFA has announced to firmly tackle racism in football.

 

The representative of all professional footballers worldwide assures everybody that the players will make their contribution in the fight against racism, but the FIFPro also demands that any possible sanctions will be proportional for all parties.

 

Unfortunately, racism is still a plague in many football stadiums throughout the world. Almost weekly FIFPro receives reports from its player unions about incidents in which players are the victims of racist remarks. On 13 May, Didier Drogba opened the new FIFPro office, one day after he had been the victim of racist behaviour from several spectators during the derby between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.

 

On Friday, UEFA announced it would be introducing stricter measures against racism. ‘It is clear that UEFA's member associations and other stakeholders in the football family are unanimous that we need to do more to tackle this problem’, said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino.

 

Naturally FIFPro and its players will cooperate in the fight against racism. FIFPro and the prof players will raise their voices, condemn racist remarks and spread the message that there is no place for racism in football and society.

 

FIFPro welcomes the measure that referees should stop, suspend or even abandon a match if racist incidents occur. A decision such as this should not be placed with the player, but with the authorities on or off the field.

 

FIFPro can, however, not agree with the measure that any player or team official found guilty of racist conduct must be suspended for at least ten matches. If guilty, a player must miss at least ten matches in the UEFA competition concerned. In addition, UEFA is asking all national football associations – which have unanimously agreed with the resolution – to introduce this sanction nationally.

 

FIFPro has two fundamental objections: the sanction must be proportional and the punishment must be in the hands of the authorities.

 

FIFPro wishes to leave the actual punishment of racism to the authorities. These are better equipped to determine whether there is, indeed, a matter of racism and to which degree. In every country within the UEFA territory, racism is penalised. A judge can impose a proportional sentence on an offender for a proven incident of racism. This prevents problems arising with regard to European legislation.

 

That those problems could arise if the proposed policy of UEFA is implemented can be deduced from the deliberations of the European Court of Justice in the Meca Medina case. First, the Court ruled in that matter that disciplinary sanctions in professional sports falls under the application of EU law. Second, the Court ruled that sanctions in the sport should be proportional within the framework of fair competition. A sanction of 10 matches means that a player will be excluded for more than a quarter of his work without any assessment of the degree of his offence. Furthermore, FIFPro stands for a strict case by case management and is against any automatic suspension.

 

Based on the ruling of the Court, this could very quickly be considered a simplistic measure. And the consequence could be enormous damage to UEFA’s anti-racism policy. 

 

FIFPro prefers a more thorough basis for combating racism in football through a close collaboration with the authorities, linked with intensive education and information.