Wednesday 15 October ~
It used to be said about the International Olympic Committee that their main concern about drug taking in athletics wasn’t so much the fact that competitors used illegal substances, more that media speculation about such matters could harm relationships with commercial sponsors. Those days now appear to be over with much more stringent drugs testing procedures now having caught out scores of athletes, some of whom have ended being jailed. However the notion that certain issues are essentially “bad for business” rather than bad per se still seems to characterise the football authorities’ attitudes towards racism. On the eve of the annual Kick It Out anti-racism weeks of action, race prejudice in football has been making headlines for a variety of reasons.
Firstly there seems to have been some confusion over whether the FA want their Spanish counterparts to find an alternative to Madrid’s Bernabeu as venue for the countries’ friendly in February 2009 because of the abuse aimed at black England players at the match there four years ago. Fabio Capello, who was quoted as supporting the switch in venue, has now said that his views were misrepresented, while Rio Ferdinand in a press conference yesterday said “Going back to Madrid is not a problem”. In view of the virulent response of sections of the Spanish crowd that night, others wonder why England should want to go back there at all: “They want the money and prestige of playing against the European champions and the issue of racism is bottom of their list of priorities,” says Leroy Rosenior who now works for the charity Show Racism The Red Card. The Spanish press, meanwhile, thinks that their UK counterparts are being a little hypocritical in making a fuss over the issue: The country of hooligans says the Bernabeu is racist was the headline in an editorial in the Madrid daily ABC. Spanish reporters could also raise the issue of the protracted and highly audible abuse aimed at Sol Campbell by some away fans during Spurs’ recent visit to Portsmouth which has yet to generate an official response.
Crowd behaviour at another stadium in the Spanish capital has also been in the news with Atlético Madrid fined £117,000 and given a three-game home ban in the Champions League for their crowd’s behaviour during a match with Marseille. But UEFA’s official statement on the incident makes no mention of racism – the bulk of the fine related to the police and stewards’ treatment of the travelling fans. With all the other transgressions removed from Atlético’s charge sheet, the fines prompted by a section of the home support aiming racist abuse at Marseille players amount to a small fraction of the total.
There has been widespread criticism of UEFA’s decision to fine Croatia only £15,000 for racial taunts aimed at black England players during the countries’ World Cup qualifier in Zagreb – and there seems to be an expectation that this issue will need be raised again after England’s match in Belarus tonight. The size of the fine over such incidents isn’t the central issue – there has never been any indication that fines of any size imposed on a football federation in relation to crowd behaviour have acted as a disincentive. Deducting points from a team for their behaviour of some of their supporters might seem excessively harsh and again it doesn’t really address the crux of the matter. Rather than levying paltry fines, UEFA and FIFA could employ stewards at all official matches specifically to monitor instances of racial abuse from sections of a crowd then use video footage to eject and ban the offenders. But the creation of such a taskforce would amount to an admittance that the problem is bigger than they would want to concede.
A bumper crowd of 472 saw Willand Rovers defeat Cullompton Rangers 1-0 after extra time in the rearranged Culm Valley Showdown. See yesterday's WSC Daily for more