In the past few years, football has worryingly become more associated with acts of racism, and it is a trend which the game’s authorities clearly wish to address. Earlier this year, AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng walked off the pitch during a friendly after being subject to racist abuse from opposition supporters, showing just how far football has to go before it is completely free from these disgraceful attitudes.
FIFA recently introduced new measures designed to further tackle the issue, but whether these are sufficient is open to debate.
The new laws which FIFA have brought in mean that teams could be faced with points deductions, competition disqualifications or even relegation if found guilty of ‘major’ acts of racism, or if they are being charged for a second time. The increased severity of punishments aims to discourage fans and players alike from participating in racist activity, by making consider the ill consequences of their actions if they do.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter
The head of FIFA’s newly created Anti-Racism Taskforce, Jeffrey Webb, called the decision to approve the plans “a defining moment”, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that by setting a “tough, uncompromising example… we can make a difference. We can send a strong signal to the racists that their time is up”.
Hard to stop
With football stadiums regularly packed full of thousands of supporters, it can be difficult to identify any guilty party when racist chanting is heard. Furthermore, the sort of person who take part in such disgraceful behaviour tend to be people who you’d feel uncomfortable standing up to or reporting to a steward, primarily because of fear.
Webb admitted that he was ”fully aware that what is reported in the media is actually less than 1% of the incidents that happen around the world”. In a recent survey of over 5000 fans, it was revealed that over two thirds of them had witnessed either racist or homophobic chanting at a game.
However, technology is constantly evolving, and FIFA, and other football bodies, are trying to take advantage of modern equipment to help crack down on the problem. CCTV can be used to help pinpoint the source of racism within packed crowds, and stadium stewards now sometimes carry portable video cameras to try and capture the offenders on film – making it easier to prosecute them later on. Anti-Racism group ‘Kick it Out’ have also just released a new mobile phone app which makes it easier to report any discrimination they see while watching at a match.
Kevin Prince-Boateng walked off the pitch during a match in January after being racially abused, and is now on the newly created Anti-Racism Taskforce
The Anti-Racism Taskforce, which includes Boateng and FA Chairman David Bernstein, have also recommended the presence of an extra official with grounds, whose role would predominantly be to observe stands and monitor any racist behaviour, while taking the pressure off the referee to deal with those off-field occurrences.
So are we nearly there?
It’s now nearly two years since Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches after racially abusing Patrice Evra, and it appears that FIFA are definitely moving in the right direction in trying to eradicate the issue from the game. But not everyone is completely satisfied with their recent actions, with some, including former England striker Luther Blissett, questioning FIFA’s decision to distinguish between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ racism. Blissett feels that “any form of racism is serious enough for the bans to start” and that “they should hit people hard straight away”.
As Boateng said earlier this year, “‘Racism does not go away. If we don’t confront it, it will spread’, and while FIFA’s most recent steps are definitely positive, it appears that there is still a lot more work to do before it is completely wiped out.