UEFA is kicking off the 2013/14 European club competition season with a clear and widely-supported message that racism, intolerance and discrimination have no place in football and must be banished from the game.
No to Racism was the message given at the kick-off events in Monaco this week, and this will continue to be the clarion call by European football’s governing body and its partners as awareness is increased by a series of highly visible measures, especially at matches in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
UEFA showed media representatives in Monaco a video in which a number of high-profile football celebrities – including 2012/13 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award winner Frank Ribéry and other leading men and women players and referees – emphasised that everything must be done to ensure that the racists are driven out of football.
The visibility of the No to Racism message will be clear at some 340 matches this season. In particular, there will be No to Racism LED perimeter boards in stadiums, and a No to Racism flag will be paraded before all matches during the line-ups. Material will also be provided to broadcasters for all matchdays. Specific activities will take place, as is customary, on the third matchday of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, with the two competitions acting as a high-profile platform for football's anti-racism campaign.
"The message is very clear on the part of European football, we have to combat racism. That is enough now as regards everything that can be heard in the stadiums and from certain players," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "It will be a strong message transmitted throughout the year and throughout Europe."
UEFA disciplinary bodies have prosecuted 102 incidents of racism in the past five years, including 11 cases already this season. This year has seen UEFA reinforce its stance against racism. New regulations have been put in place in all UEFA competitions. As a result, any player or team official found guilty of racist conduct must be suspended for at least ten matches (or a corresponding period of time for club representatives). If supporters of a club or national team engage in racist behaviour this must be sanctioned (for a first offence) with a partial stadium closure concerning the section where the racist incident occurred. For a second offence, this must be sanctioned with a full stadium closure, as well as a financial penalty. In addition, supporters found guilty of racist behaviour should be banned from attending matches in future by the state authorities.
UEFA and its member associations also adopted a resolution at the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress which emphasised European football's determination to eliminate racism from the sport. It pledges that UEFA and the associations will step up their efforts to eradicate racism from football. The resolution calls on players and coaches to make a full contribution to the campaign, and urges referees to stop or even abandon matches in the case of racist incidents. As part of a zero tolerance stance towards racism, strict sanctions are demanded in the resolution against officials, players and supporters guilty of racist behaviour.
Match officials can act against racism as a result of guidelines issued by the UEFA Executive Committee in the summer of 2009. If a referee becomes aware of, or is made aware of racist behaviour in the stadium, he or she can stop a match for appeals to be made to stop such behaviour via stadium loudspeakers, and in serious cases, referees are empowered to abandon matches.
For more than a decade, UEFA has also been in partnership with the FARE anti-racism network, and both bodies have cooperated in staging events, issuing publications, and using the massive public and commercial platform of Europe's biggest football matches to press home the anti-racism message. UEFA delegates and FARE observers are also in contact at matches, and this co-operation can lead to the opening of disciplinary proceedings for racist conduct.
"Only a zero tolerance policy will stamp out this evil once and for all," said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino at yesterday’s UEFA Champions League group stage draw. "Altogether we can, and we will win, by saying No to Racism."
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