Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has claimed that CSKA Moscow fans made racist chants during the teams’ UEFA Champions League match in Moscow on Wednesday. Manchester City stated that it has submitted a formal written complaint to UEFA. CSKA Moscow, for its part, has stated that it deems Toure’s claims as “unfounded” and is “surprised and disappointed” by Toure’s claims, and has even gone so far as to say that the claims were “exaggerated” by Toure and British media. There are two inquiries that now arise in light of Toure’s claims: one that examines the actions of CSKA Moscow fans and one that examines the inaction of the match referee in response to Toure’s claims during the game.
First, UEFA has charged CSKA Moscow with “racist behavior of their fans” in response to Toure’s and Manchester City’s in- and post-game complaints that fans were making “monkey chants.” A statement issued by UEFA read: “Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against PFC CSKA Moskva for racist behaviour of their fans (article 14 of the UEFA disciplinary regulations) and for setting off of fireworks (article 16) at last night’s UEFA Champions League group stage match in Moscow against Manchester City FC. The case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on 30 October.”
Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, which were revised in May, prohibits behavior by a member association or a club’s supporters that “insults the human dignity of a person or group or persons by whatever means, including on the grounds of skin colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.” If a member association or a club’s supporters are responsible for such behavior, the minimum punishment is a partial stadium closure. Incremental punishment is assessed for future offenses: “a second offense is punished with one match played behind closed doors and a fine of €50,000 [($69,035 USD)]” and “any subsequent offense is punished with more than one match behind closed doors, a stadium closure, the forfeiting of a match, the deduction of points or disqualification from the competition.” As noted in UEFA’s statement, UEFA’s findings and any actual punishment levied against CSKA Moscow will be addressed by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on October 30.
Toure stated that he informed referee Ovidiu Hategan about the racist chants during the match and, yet, Hategan took no action during the match. As a result, UEFA has also opened an investigation into Hategan’s inaction. Specifically, UEFA is investigating why Hategan failed to follow a three-step protocol to be employed by the match referee if there is a report of racist behavior during the game. Under that three-step protocol, the referee is authorized to do the following:
• First step: if the referee becomes aware of serious racist behaviour, or is informed of it by the fourth official, he shall, as a first step, halt the game and ask for an announcement to be made requesting the public to immediately desist from such racist behaviour.
• Second step: if the racist behaviour does not cease once the game has restarted, the referee shall suspend the match for a reasonable period of time, and ask the teams go to the dressing rooms. A further announcement shall be made to the public.
• Third and final step: if the racist conduct does not end after the game has then resumed, the referee shall definitively abandon the match as a last resort. The UEFA delegate will assist the referee, through the fourth official, in determining whether the racist behaviour has stopped, and any decision to abandon the fixture will only be taken after all other possible measures have been implemented and the impact of abandoning the match on the security of the players and public has been assessed.
UEFA (as well as FIFA) has been under increased pressure to deliver on its strong stance against racism. The resolution of the two issues presented by Toure’s claims will provide some level of insight into UEFA’s execution of that plan. Ultimately, UEFA may conclude based on observer reports and video that there is insufficient evidence to establish the CSKA Moscow fans made racist chants. In the event that UEFA does so, it will be interesting to see how UEFA addresses the referee’s failure to abide by the UEFA three-step protocol when confronted by Toure’s claims of racist chants during the match.