European soccer head Aleksander Ceferin has said referees will be told to be brave and stop matches when players have been subjected to racial abuse. “We will speak to the referees again, and tell them to be confident, not to be afraid to act,” the BBC quoted the UEFA President as saying on Tuesday at an Equal Game conference at Wembley Stadium.
On stage, Ceferin spoke of his shame at recent incidents across the continent. “I am ashamed that here in Europe, not a weekend goes by without discriminatory acts taking place at a football stadium, amateur level or professional level,” he said. “I am ashamed to see extremist movements use our sport as a vehicle for their messages of hatred and intolerance.”
English FA chairman Greg Clarke, who spoke after Ceferin, called for zero tolerance on racism and said it needed to be easier for referees to take players off the pitch. He said he had rewritten a planned speech, which would have highlighted the progress made in tackling racism and discrimination, after racist abuse of England players in Montenegro last week.
A three-step UEFA protocol that allows the referee to stop a match if ‘racist behaviour is of a strong magnitude and intensity’ should be reworded, he added.
“There should be no judgement call on whether something is of a strong magnitude,” said Clarke. “Racism is racism and we should have zero tolerance for it.”
England defender Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chants during the Euro 2020 qualifier won 5-1 by his side in Podgorica while Raheem Sterling was also targeted.
Clarke said abuse from one fan should be enough for the referee to act. “Receiving a torrent of vile, racist abuse from one person when you are taking a throw-in or a corner is wholly unacceptable too,” he said. “So we should look again at our definitions to make sure the protocol covers this, because this needs to stop.”
Clarke said the FA was looking at how incidents were dealt with in England and a board meeting last week agreed to review the processes for spectator misconduct and how clubs are sanctioned.
“I also worry that there is an undue burden on the player to report incidents themselves,” said the FA chairman.
He said every complaint should be investigated, rather than just reported by match officials, with video technology and lip-readers used.
Ceferin did not mention Montenegro directly but said he was ashamed to see banana skins thrown onto football pitches and hear monkey noises coming from the stands.
The Slovenian also spoke out against ‘sickening fascist nostalgia’ in stadiums. “It is worrying to see certain leaders and politicians playing down these incidents when they occur in their own countries,” he added.
Momir Durdevac, the general secretary of the Montenegro FA, said later through a translator that he had heard no racist abuse at the England match and blamed a “handful of idiots’ if there had been any.
He said they should be condemned, rather than the country, and apologised “to all those who have gained a very bad impression from Podgorica.”