UEFA: Football family must 'wage war on the racists'

UEFA: Football family must 'wage war on the racists'
England manager Gareth Southgate (second left) and match referee Ivan Bebek (third right). Picture: Nick Potts / PA Wire

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has urged the “football family” to “wage war on the racists” following the abuse suffered by England’s players in Bulgaria.

Ceferin blamed a rise in nationalism across Europe for fuelling racism at matches and said the governing body was committed to eradicating the “disease” from football.

“Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football,” said Ceferin in a statement.

“We cannot afford to be content with this, we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.

“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area.”

England players were subjected to racist chanting in Sofia (Nick Potts/PA)
England players were subjected to racist chanting in Sofia (Nick Potts/PA)

Slovenian Ceferin said football had become complacent in tackling racism.

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory,” he said.

“The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

“The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.”

Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia was stopped twice as Bulgarian fans made Nazi salutes and directed monkey noises at black England players.

Ceferin believes UEFA has some of the toughest sanctions in sport in dealing with racist supporters and feels criticism of the governing body’s handling of the issue is unfair.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark,” the statement continued.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches.

“The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for 10 matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game.”

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