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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Enough is Enough

Whenever we’ve found ourselves ‘compelled’ to write something on this blog in the past, it’s usually been at the revocation of decorum and very much at the behest of some semblance of sanctimony. Wrighty and Brighty have copped it a fair few times for crimes against punditry and speaking/writing. Adrian Chiles, too, may have been labelled by us, variously ‘a potato that a child of below average intelligence has drawn a face on’ and ‘the peawet on a fish supper: only popular in one pocket of the country and reviled everywhere else. Green, disgusting and irrelevant. THAT’S YOU ADRIAN’.
And even England’s bravest man was never immune either from the abuse of two washed-up, semi-alcoholic, northern bloggers.

Compelled, though, we have been. For after the truly disgraceful scenes at the full-time whistle in last night's Euro 2013 under-21 play-off between England and Serbia, compounding 90 minutes and more of that age-old citadel of unapologetic neanderthalism – the monkey chant - the Serbian FA found time from their stint at the local Waffen SS to deny that any racist behaviour took place.

Furthermore, they stated: ‘… while most of the English team players celebrated the score, their player number three, Danny Rose, behaved in inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner towards the supporters on the stands at the stadium in Krusevac, and for that he was shown a red card.’ Whereas the Serbian FA’s statement should be met with open contempt from all quarters - I particularly liked actor/writer/comedian David Schneider’s jibe on Twitter yesterday: ‘Serbian FA: "Danny Rose behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner by being black. He deliberately flaunted his skin colour at Serbian fans"’ – the English FA’s should be applauded. ‘What occurred is inexcusable and not acceptable,’ declared Alex Horne. Absolutely.

But what now? Well UEFA’s strongest possible sanctions have proved not to have the slightest bearing on attitudes and behaviour. It is, of course, nothing new to attack UEFA for their pathetic ‘punishments’ for racism in the past. From Slovakia’s paltry £18,000 fine back in 2002 after England’s black players were subject to vile chants during a Euro 2004 qualifier, described by Emile Heskey as ‘frightening’ to Russia’s £24,203 fine just this summer following their fans’ treatment of the black Czech Republic full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie, UEFA has time and time again been shown to be incompetent on this crucial issue.

But then perhaps UEFA doesn’t feel quite as strongly as anyone with half a brain and ounce of moral compass – an £80,000 fine handed to Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner for wearing Paddy Power boxer shorts would certainly suggest that ‘illegal’ sponsorship is worse than, say, 10,000 all making monkey chants at a 22-year-old footballer. So let’s recap.

FINE’S DON’T WORK. Much less arbitrary ones. But the upshot of fining someone more for wearing green logoed pants than for prolonged racist chanting is simple. Michel Platini’s position is absolutely untenable. Forget about goalline technology, fourth officials and the like, because on this one issue alone, Platini has proven himself an incompetent. He could just about redeem himself if he comes out this week to deplore Serbia and ban them from one or two international competitions, at all levels. There’s no precedent on a ban because UEFA have been so spineless in dealing with this cancer for so long. But, put simply, a ban is a punishment that would fit that crime. It is a punishment that would prove, finally, that UEFA WILL NOT tolerate racism.

To further back the stance that a ban is necessary, Lord Ouseley, the chair of Kick It Out, hit the nail squarely on the head with this comment: ‘The fact Uefa has been so woefully weak in the past in administering punishments makes it easy to reoffend.’ Indeed, Serbia themselves, described as ‘serial offenders’ by Ouseley, received the pitiful fine of £16,500 just five years ago as England’s under-21s were subject to racist abuse. On recalling that night, Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha, then at Manchester City, said it was 'the toughest 90 minutes of my life'.

But does the English FA have the right to adopt a position dangerously close to a moral high ground, when there are some of us, a small group perhaps, looking somewhat askance, when thumbing through recent memory and coming up with the name ‘John Terry’? Hmm. Food for thought perhaps.

With the huge strides made in England under the Kick It Out banner since its inception in 1993, perhaps the English FA is best-placed to take matters into its own hands, however. And they have been huge strides, lest we forget the dark old days of bananas and monkey chants on these fair shores. That's not to say there still isn't work to be done - there is - but the groundwork has been laid, nonetheless, more so than in most places.

Walking off the field of play has long been championed as an immediate and effective antidote to the morons. But the role of UEFA, as a governing body is exactly that. It is to take the lead on the important issues; to provide governance. And no issue can be said to be more vital than this one. The very fact that the UEFA suits will not consider the Serbia case until its disciplinary panel next meets on November 22 perhaps underlines once and for all THEIR priorities. And, sadly, racism is not, by any means, ‘top of the agenda’ as they have claimed so many times before.

Also, please let me clarify another point, central in all this. I am not naive enough to think a ban will change attitudes overnight. But what it does, aside from sending an immediate message to other offenders that racism will not stand and will be clamped down upon, it also opens a dialogue. And through dialogue will the legitimacy of actions be questioned.  

If it is fine that comes Serbia’s way, and not a ban, then the law will have to be taken into the English FA’s hands. No more trips to Serbia. And I would even advocate shunning the under-21s Euros next summer. Although self-punative and distressing for the players, it might just take something so drastic to finally open UEFA eyes to a problem that so badly needs remedying. Let’s hope on November 22 that sense, and justice, prevail.


  1. Great piece. The chanting was of course contemptible, but it's the Serbian FA's reaction that makes me think a ban is the only reasonable course of action. The fact that a national governing body thinks it can avoid the issue by outright denial/trying to pin the blame on the victim, shows what a soft touch UEFA is perceived to be on this issue.

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