Platini: “Referees can stop games if there is racist abuse”
UEFA President Michel Platini has reiterated that officials can temporarily postpone or abandon games if racism is seen in the terraces. Empty words or shifting the burden?
With the recent BBC Panorama documentary highlighting significant issues with racist and sectarian chanting inside stadiums in Poland and Ukraine, Platini has stated that officials have the “power” to initially suspend a game twice if the referee sees racist behaviour and on a third occasion to abandon it.
This – as with many Platini related quotes – leaves more questions than it does answers. Firstly, what will be done on the ground among stewards and police to take preventative or immediate action before it builds it such a level that it is noticeable to the referee who (one would expect) will be absorbed in the game.
Secondly, what will be done during the suspensions of play? Is it simply a gesture of warning to fans that if they want to enjoy the match, they should behave? Fans doling out monkey chants to players of African-heritage or Nazi-saluting should not have to be told to be quiet or they won’t get to see the game; they should be ejected imminently.
Thirdly – the administrative issue. What happens if a game is abandoned? Will the curent scoreline stand? Will it have to be rearranged at extremely short notice? Or will the team of the fans (if indeed it only occurs from one group) be automatically eliminated?
Incidentally, a number of caveats must be mentioned. Racist chanting and behaviour is a problem for almost every major European league. Yes, in some countries it is fairly small and others more endemic but this is not a Polish or Ukranian phenemenon.
Let’s compare the stats. Anti-racist group “Never again” in their report “Hateful” documenting racist footballing incidents in the host nations from 2009-2011 revealed 195 occurrences (133 in Poland, 62 in Ukraine.) In the same period, police in the UK made 75 arrests at UK football stadia.
Obviously when you adjust it for numbers of fans, the UK will be slightly lower per fan due to higher attendances. However it still shows that in a country where racism at football is widely considered to at least be at a manageable and respectable level, their statistics are not vastly different from the so-called hot bed of Eastern Europe.
But what does it mean for the referees for the finals? The specifics have not been made clear; UEFA’s chief referereeing officer, the boggle-eyed legend that is Pierliugi Collina has said that referees have been trained in the protocol and that it is the Match Director who will co-ordinate things.
One would imagine that this means the referee will either seek verification from or be told by the Match Director to stop the game. But it should not have come to this stage. The money pumped in to Euro 2012 has hopefully allocated a large amount to stewarding and policing at games.
Refurbishing older stadia and erecting sponsors fan parks is all well and good but at the logistical foundation must be a desire to make matches safe and pleasant for both fans, players and officials and put in place surveillance and sanctions for those abusing this.
If UEFA and the local competition organisers have failed to establish this and left match officials in charge of dealing with racist behaviour, they have made a grave error.
Platini has also not helped matters by specifically stating that players leaving the field of play on their own accord if they feel they or teammates are being abused will be yellow-carded. Of course if the referee deems a player to be leaving the field in an unauthorised manner then he is free to caution them.
This comes after walking newspaper story generator Mario Balotelli said he would take this action if he was maltreated.
But for Platini to blankly assert this feels like a vieled attempt to request players to tolerate any abuse until the officials take action.
Hopefully none of these fears will be realised and – while I doubt the local authorities will consider long term strategies to tackle racism in the host countries – enough is done to keep offensive chanting and gestures out of the tournament.
However the spectre of racism hanging over the tournament leaves referees stuck in the middle and the tournament’s success in jeopardy from a small minority.
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