FIFA toughens rules on racism17 March 2006

Clubs whose fans are guilty of racist abuse can be deducted points or even relegated under new regulations approved by FIFA's executive committee. The new penalties range from match suspensions to deductions of points; three for a first offence, six for a second and relegation if there are further offences.

FIFA have ordered all its confederations and their member associations to incorporate the new penalties into their regulations, and have threatened to exclude associations from international football for up to two years if they fail to do so.

The final straw
The issue was highlighted once again at a recent Primera Liga game in Spain when Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o was the subject of heavy abuse at Real Zaragoza. The Cameroon international had to be persuaded by the referee and team-mates not to walk off the pitch.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said, “Recent events have demonstrated there is a need for concerted action and an urgency for more severe measures to be adopted in order to kick this evil out of the beautiful game. Now that the clubs and associations have an obligation to find a solution, they will find the solutions necessary to eliminate this plague.”

FIFA finds its teeth
The FIFA committee had heard evidence from Juventus defender Lilian Thuram prior to making their decision. The France international first highlighted the state of the situation to FIFA at their conference against racism in Buenos Aires in July 2001. FIFA’s response then was to introduce an Anti-Discrimination Day, leaving many campaigners feeling that an opportunity had been missed. FIFA now seems to have added some teeth to its policy.

Setting the standard
The new rules should help unify the standard across the globe. No longer should we see the situation where, for instance EUFA seriously fines a club for an offence under its jurisdiction; whereas the same club can remain unpunished for repeated offences in its national league.

Additionally, the new rules will also apply to the amateur game. Whilst high-profile campaigns have brought tremendous improvements to the professional game in recent years, ethnic minorities playing in Europe’s amateur leagues have been subjected to some awful physical and verbal racist abuse.