UEFA empowers referees on racism and demands zero tolerance of match fixing

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March 28 – UEFA has joined forces with clubs and players in a unified attack on racism and has re-iterated its position that referees have the authority to stop and abandon matches. European football’s governing body reminded officials they were authorised four years ago to halt games in case of serious racism incidents, a policy that has been largely ignored but rekindled in the wake of Kevin-Prince Boeteng’s walk-off.

It also urged coaches and players to speak out “even if it meant criticising their own players and fans”.

In 2009, UEFA outlined a number of bullet points for tackling racism & discrimination and repeated that stance in a resolution issued in conjunction with the European Clubs Association (ECA) and the world players’ union, FIFPro.

The resolution was drawn up by the Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) and ratified by UEFA’s executive committee, meeting in Bulgaria, on Thursday. The PFSC is composed of representatives from UEFA, the national leagues, European clubs and the players.

So far, no UEFA-organised match has ever been abandoned but this season a string of matches have been plagued by racist banners and chants, with a series of clubs sanctioned accordingly. The new resolution called on UEFA, national associations and leagues to provide fresh regulations as part of a concrete action plan for stricter penalties.

“Many countries have taken significant and successful action but such incidents are still widespread in our continent,” it said.  “[The resolution] calls on the players and coaches – namely those with most influence on the perpetrators of racist acts – to speak out, even if this may mean criticising their own fans or players.

The same stakeholders, plus the 30-strong European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL),  also agreed in Bulgaria to step up the war on match-fixing including preventing players from betting on their own games.

This week, InsideWorldFootball revealed that upwards of 45 of UEFA’s 53 member federations were in some way linked with match-fixing and UEFA President Michel Platini told a post-exco news conference that his organisation would show “no mercy” to any players found guilty of “killing” the sport. “They will not play football ever again. Zero tolerance will be applied to players, referees and football leaders. This is too important.”

Establishing a unified stance and a code of conduct could only work, however, if governments pass laws outlawing this kind of criminal activity. “All four organisations agree that sports bodies do not have the means or the legal jurisdictions to tackle by themselves a problem, which often involves criminal organisations,” the resolution said.

“Sports fraud should therefore be recognised as a specific criminal offence in national legislations throughout Europe, as this would help to ensure a consistent, effective and coordinated means to deter match-fixing. At the same time, European states should consider dedicated prosecution services with a primary responsibility of dealing with sports fraud cases.”

“Efforts towards the adoption of an international convention on match-fixing under the auspices of the Council of Europe should be encouraged – with full involvement of football stakeholders.”

As expected the exco approved the bidding requirements and bid regulations for Euro 2020 to be staged in 13 cities across Europe.  The first key date is April 26 with the publication of the bid regulations and requirements and the launch of the bidding phase.

By Andrew Warshaw

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