Proposed FIFA Sanctions Illustrate Racism Has No Place On or Off the Pitch

An article from ESPN FC on Friday illuminated that world soccer governing body FIFA intends to bring forth a proposal that would ban players found guilty of on-the-pitch racism for a minimum of 5 matches, and would deduct points from clubs which had serial offending fans.


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FIFA’s annual global congress is to be held next week, and should the proposal win a majority vote, all 209 countries under the FIFA umbrella will officially have to adopt the rule. This proposal has not yet officially been published, but “sources have confirmed they include a five-game ban for on-the-pitch racism.” These regulations are long overdue in the world of football, but there has been a recent push to make something happen after incidents in leagues all around the world seeming to suddenly be on the rise.

Among the more publicly known incidents was when Luis Suarez uttered racial slurs toward Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during a premiere league match in October of 2011. Suarez and Evra exchanged words in the penalty box while awaiting a corner kick, and Evra later would complain to match officials that Suarez used racist language during the spat. Suarez received an 8-game ban and was fined 40,000 pounds for his actions, later degraded to a misconduct punishment after an appeal, according to Liverpool’s website.

Another of these incidents involved Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand (currently on loan to Turkish side Bursaspor) and Chelsea defender John Terry. The two were talking on the pitch and Terry was accused of making a racist comment toward Ferdinand several days after the match from an official complaint from QPR to the FA. Terry released a statement saying that he indeed uttered them, but only in an attempt to say to Ferdinand that he had not said the hurtful words as Anton claimed he had (all of this while the players were still on the pitch).

Both of these are examples of what would be considered “on-the-pitch racism” under the new proposal from FIFA. European football governing body UEFA, however, has an even more severe punishment than FIFA. In fact, it’s twice as severe to be precise. UEFA’s racism policies call for a minimum of a 10-match ban, and were agreed upon Friday at UEFA’s congressional meeting in London. The policy also includes partial stadium closure as a first offense for racist fans, and full stadium closure for the second violation. UEFA president Michel Platini was quoted in the article saying,

 This is a great moment in our struggle against racism.

It’s nice to see some form of regulation on the matter coming to fruition on a global stage. As the game progresses and evolves, racism needs to be addressed with with seriousness it deserves, and violators dealt with accordingly. FIFA’s role in this progression, according to FIFA’s racism task force head Jeffrey Webb, is to “set the minimum standard” for sanctions and regulations on the matter. He further went on to say,

We’re looking at making sure that is spread across the 209 member associations and, regardless of what UEFA does or CONCACAF does, from a global standpoint, there must be certain minimum standards. “It’s time to make people accountable. It’s points deduction, it’s relegation, it’s expulsion from competitions.

Finally, we’re having some action on this. This is something that’s long overdue.

Hopefully, FIFA congressional members and representatives will vote in favor of the proposed sanctions, and we’ll have our first global step towards combatting racism on and off the pitch. There is simply no room for its ugliness in the beautiful game.

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Reporting on the business side of the world's game.