Referees are in charge of a football match once the game gets under way – and have the authority to act if there are incidents of racist conduct on or off the pitch.
Europe's match officials will be represented among the football family at the second pan-European uniteagainstracism conference in Barcelona on 1 February by experienced Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen, one of the continent's top arbiters. The conference is being organised by UEFA in co-operation with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), with FC Barcelona acting as hosts.
The football authorities have given referees their blessing to halt matches if racist conduct gets out of hand – and Dutch referee René Temmink did just that when he abandoned a game between ADO Den Haag and PSV Eindhoven in October 2004 with ten minutes to go, because of insulting chants, in particular anti-semitic diatribes from the grandstands.
Far from making himself a negative name, Temmink's committed stand against intolerance earned him plaudits not only from football colleagues, but also from senior Dutch politicians. The move brought praise too from UEFA. "You have to do things sometimes that are unpopular," said Temmink, who has now retired from European duty. "I could not accept what was happening, it went beyond what you can do.
Reaching a limit
"Comments were being made by the fans towards other fans, towards the players, and towards me," he continued. "I asked the stadium announcer two or three times to say something to the spectators, but when things reached a limit, it was time to stop – it was over. Everybody was pleased that I took this stand – the Dutch security minister said I had had a good idea – I think it showed everybody that there are boundaries you cannot cross."
Showing the example
"René Temmink has shown the example," said UEFA communications and public affairs director William Gaillard. "He did a fantastic job when he was faced with ugly behaviour.
Within their rights
"We believe that referees are in charge when a match begins, and they can decide to stop the game like Temmink did," he added. "It is their duty, and FIFA have confirmed that it is perfectly within their rights to do so."
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