England v Serbia Racism & European football

At a recent under 21 football match between Serbia and England Serbian supporters racially abused black England players. UEFA – European footballs governing body – are looking into what happened but it seems that tacling racism in football is not a priority.

The  racist abuse directed at England's under 21 footballers should come as no surprise. The Serbian national team has only been in existence for six years but Serbian supporters have already forced the abandonment of a European championship qualifying game by throwing flares into the stands and onto the pitch and in 2007 UEFA had to make an appeal to Serbian supporters to stop racist chanting aimed at Nedum Onuoha another England footballer.

The Daily Telegraph lists some of the punishments handed out by UEFA in recent years and it seems that tackling racism and racist chanting is not a priority for European footballs governing body. The biggest fine for racist chanting is  £34,230 incurred by the Bulgarian football association for racist abuse directed at England players in 2012. The smallest fine was a paltry £10,000 fine for the Croatian Football association for the racist behaviour of their supporters in match against Turkey in 2008.

Punishments for racist behaviour were generally less then those for other matters such as failure to control players or fan misbehaviour. In April 2012 Manchester City were fined  £24,740 for coming out late for the start of the second half of a Europa league match against Porto. The Telegraph report that Man City

"received a fine over £8,000 higher than Porto were subjected to for monkey noises at [Manchester City player] Mario Balotelli earlier in the campaign."

The fines are also minuscule compared to the income of many European football associations and many players earn more in a week then the punishments the national associations receive.

To see where UEFA's priorities really lie look no further then the 2012 European championships. The Croatian football federation was fined for two incidents involving their fans, firstly behaviour of their supporters at a match against the Republic of Ireland where fans throw missiles and flares onto the pitch and a steward had to tackle a fan who ran onto the pitch. In another game against Italy Croatian fans racially abused Italian player Mario Balotelli, they made monkey chants and one person threw a banana onto the pitch. The total fine for both incidents was €80,000 (£65,00). However when Denmark player Nicklas Bendtner celebrated a goal by lifting his shirt revealing the name of a betting company on his underwear he was fined €100,000 (£80,000) and banned for one match.

Ged Grebby chief executive of Show Racism the red card says that:

“When Croatia are fined less than Nicklas Bendtner for wearing dodgy underpants, it sends out the wrong message. It suggests that if you upset our sponsors that you will get a bigger fine than a team whose fans are guilty of racism and that is unwelcome."

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