UEFA has began investigations into alleged racist abuse by England fans during the Euro 2004™ qualifying match between England and Turkey on 2 April 2003.
England’s 2-0 victory at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light was marred by two pitch invasions, racist chanting, trouble outside the ground and improper conduct of officials in the tunnel after the match. The match itself was also fiery, with many bad tempered tackles. The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) made an official complaint after the match.
Disciplinary proceedings have also been instigated against the TFF for the improper conduct of Turkish players in the tunnel after the match. Both cases will be dealt with at the next plenary meeting of UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body on 1 May. The FA have until 21 April to submit a response.
Uefa’s disciplinary body have already punished Slovakia this season for racist abuse of England fans & players by making them play one game in an empty stadium. However, UEFA’s communications director Mike Lee said it was not automatic England would receive the same punishment as Slovakia. He said,
“We do believe there is a serious case to answer. But you cannot compare cases, you have to deal with them individually, look at their track record, what occurred and whether it was inside or outside the stadium, and what was the scale of the incident.”
The FA is determined to prove that it has done everything in its power to stop racism among England supporters. In their defence, The FA can point to their pioneering work in combating racism in football, that the England team are often the victims of racism, and that this is a first offence.
“We are disappointed that UEFA have felt it necessary to bring the charges against us but clearly we will co-operate fully with any UEFA inquiry, and we are already in the process of our own internal investigation and report into this match.” Paul Barber (Director of Marketing & Communications, The FA).
“We have been focussed in the build-up to the game, planning with the local police, with the club, various supporters groups, the local community and of course the Turkish FA to ensure that this game passed off as smoothly and safely as possible for everybody both on and off the pitch.”
“We totally condemn any racist chanting whatsoever. It’s unnecessary and it’s totally unacceptable. This is particularly disappointing as we have worked very hard for several years with successful campaigns, particularly Kick it Out, to rid the English game of any form of racism.”
Richard Caborn, the UK Minister for Sport, has also pleaded with UEFA to consider England’s track record on tackling racism when they decide on the punishment for the ugly abuse. Caborn said,
“It is very disappointing when incidents like that happen but the FA and many other bodies have worked with fans to take racism out of football, and that should be recognised. A small minority bring our game into disrepute again and it is for all fans to stand up to it and say they do not want these hooligans and racist thugs in the game.”