UEFA's efforts to tackle racism and match-fixing have taken on a new dimension through provisions included in the 2013 UEFA disciplinary regulations, which were approved by the UEFA Executive Committee at its meeting in London last month.
The regulations strengthen UEFA's position in the fight against racism, based on the principle of zero tolerance, and give the UEFA disciplinary bodies specific empowerment relating to match-fixing and corruption. They also enable the bodies to tackle match-fixing more efficiently at national level.
UEFA feels that there are two necessary actions to consider in order to efficiently fight against racist behaviour at football matches. The first is via awareness campaigns and education programmes, which are already taking place across Europe. The second is based on disciplinary sanctions.
Zero tolerance towards racism has to be backed up by strong sanctions with meaningful deterrent effect, UEFA told its national associations in the wake of the approval of the 2013 disciplinary regulations. European football, UEFA says, takes this matter very seriously, and has resolved to strengthen the sanctions for racism-related offences.
In March, the Professional Football Strategy Council – comprising UEFA, clubs, professional leagues and the European players' union FIFPro Division Europe – unanimously adopted a resolution asking for more efforts in awareness programmes and stricter sanctions. This was endorsed by the UEFA Executive Committee, and a new resolution with concrete measures was submitted to and unanimously approved by all national associations at the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May.
On the basis of these initiatives, the new Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations includes stiffer sanctions and penalties against clubs, players, and officials charged with racist offences. Players and team officials will face bans of at least ten matches for racist behaviour. Board members of national associations or clubs would incur a ban from football for a specific period.
Furthermore, if supporters engage in racist behaviour, this will be punished with a partial stadium closure. For a second such offence there will be one match behind closed doors plus a fine of €50,000.
Referees have also been reminded of the UEFA Executive Committee approved guidelines in July 2009, which empowers match officials to stop, suspend or even abandon matches via a three-step process aimed at tackling racism head-on. In this sense, and according to the new Disciplinary Regulations, UEFA has informed its associations that match abandonment will automatically open a disciplinary procedure and even result in a declared forfeit.
UEFA has emphasised that all the above measures will also be imposed for other discriminatory conduct and all forms of ideological, political and religious propaganda in football. "The new approach concerning racism and other forms of discrimination in football is a strong and clear step in fighting against this scourge," said Emilio Garcia, head of UEFA's disciplinary and integrity unit. "Now the legal framework is much tougher."
UEFA has made the campaign to combat match-fixing a number-one priority, and the disciplinary regulations contain important changes to clamp down on such incidents and punish them more effectively.
A new article introduced states that disciplinary proceedings instigated against someone under UEFA's jurisdiction at the time when alleged corruption was committed will not be dropped by UEFA's disciplinary bodies solely because the person involved is no longer under UEFA's jurisdiction. Secondly, match-fixing, bribery and/or corruption are not subject to any statute of limitations.
Thirdly, another article is introduced whereby the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body confirms UEFA's jurisdiction in the event of a UEFA member association and/or its members failing to prosecute, or prosecute in an inappropriate manner, an offence which is likely to harm the essence of football, notably offences of match-fixing, corruption and doping. "Match-fixing is a key matter in the regulations," said Garcia. "We have reinforced UEFA's position on it."
The UEFA Disciplinary Regulations have changed little since the 1990s. In the meantime, disciplinary cases have increased significantly both in number and complexity. Changes to the regulations were previously made on a case-by-case basis.
The reworked regulations offer a new approach using a simpler and clearer structure. A significant step forward has been taken from the point of view of good governance and transparency. From July 2013, UEFA will publish decisions issued by the disciplinary bodies on UEFA.com, which is a significant break from the past.
Further important changes in the new UEFA Disciplinary Regulations relate to the powers of a judge sitting alone – the judge's competence has been increased with regard to the amounts of fines, to €10,000 for the Control and Disciplinary Body and to €25,000 for the Appeals Body); for recidivism.
In cases of recidivism, a distinction is made in the new regulations between match suspensions (one year for a one-match suspension and three years for a two-match suspension), and other offences (ten years for match-fixing or corruption-related offences and five years for all other cases). It is also now possible for the UEFA disciplinary inspector and the party charged before the Control and Disciplinary Body to submit identical requests.
Finally, the referee's authority has been reinforced, with the suspension for insulting a match official increased to three competition matches. The penalty for assaulting a match official is also increased to 15 competition matches.
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