UEFA plans tougher sanctions to combat racism

MANCHESTER, England Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:05pm BST

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino attends a news conference after the first UEFA Executive Committee reunion of the year at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino attends a news conference after the first UEFA Executive Committee reunion of the year at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon January 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Valentin Flauraud

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MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Players found guilty of racist offences face a minimum ban of 10 matches, a sanction European governing body UEFA hopes will be adopted by all their 53 members, their general secretary Gianni Infantino said.

Clubs will also face partial closure of stadiums for a first incident of racist abuse by fans and a full closure for a second offence plus far tougher financial penalties.

The new sanctions, discussed by UEFA's Executive Committee but not revealed until Wednesday, would initially affect all matches in European competition, with UEFA hoping that its members will adopt the same punishments in domestic competitions.

Infantino, the opening speaker at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester, told delegates: "We have to have sanctions and they must have a deterrent effect and what we are proposing is if a player or official is convicted of racism they should receive a 10-match suspension at least.

"If supporters at a club are found guilty of racist abuse, the first sanction will be a partial closure of the part of the stadium from which the racist abuse took place.

"For a second offence, there will be the full closure and a minimum fine of 50,000 euros ($65,300)."

The Swiss-Italian also said referees would be encouraged to abandon matches if there was racist abuse from fans towards players at games.

A number of high profile racist issues have had huge impact in the recent past with Chelsea's John Terry banned for four matches and Liverpool's Luis Suarez for eight games for offences in England.

Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan led his team off the field after racist abuse during a friendly match in Italy against lower league club Pro Patria in January and Infantino said they backed Boateng's stance but hoped it would not happen again.

NEW RULES

Infantino said the new rules will be ratified at the next UEFA executive committee meeting on May 22-23 and are planned to come into effect at the start of next season.

He also said that all of UEFA's member nations would be asked to implement the same sanctions for their domestic competitions when the executive committee presents a proposal at the UEFA Congress in London next month.

As it stands, UEFA's statutes allow a minimum sanction of a five match ban on a player who is guilty of racist abuse although Infantino agreed this had never been implemented.

Infantino said UEFA were backing referees to abandon matches if fans continued with racist abuse after a first public warning.

"If there is racist abuse, the referee is empowered to take the players off the pitch and a public announcement will be made to tell the fans to stop the abuse.

"The players will then return to the field, but if it continues the referee has the authority to abandon the match. If that happens, sanctions regarding the result and points deductions would be considered," he explained.

UEFA announced on Wednesday that Dynamo Kiev must play their next European competition home game behind closed doors due to the racist behaviour of their fans at a Champions League match in November.

The Ukraine club has appealed against the sanction, which relates to the racist conduct of their fans at a Group A match with Paris Saint Germain on November 21.

Although not refererring directly to the Kiev case, when asked about UEFA's tougher stance on racism, Infantino replied:

"We are taking this fight against racism very seriously and have a policy of zero tolerance towards it. We want to take concrete action, not just use words.

"If you think about, when you fine a club for the abuse of the fans, you don't really directly deal with those who were guilty of the racism - the abusive fans and so we will impose, in the first instance, a partial closure of the stadium in which the racist abuse has taken place."

Racism has increasingly blighted the game in recent years, especially in eastern Europe. Last month FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced the world governing body were also setting up a new Task Force.

(Editing by John O'Brien and Justin Palmer)

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