A note before starting, this is not intended to be a commentary on racism in soccer. Racism has no place in society let alone soccer, but this piece is intended to look at the efforts of soccer officials to curb racism in stadiums.
Last week several reports of Spurs players being subjected to racist chants from Lazio supporters came to light. Immediately the call came for the club to file a complaint against Lazio.
While racism certainly needs to be eradicated from the game, the problem with the whole process is who actually gets punished when fans are racist? Usually penalties range anywhere from a fine to playing stadiums behind closed doors. In extreme cases, there could be the possibility of kicking a club out of a competition, but that seems to be one of those theoretical rules that Mr. Platini would never get near.
This whole system is set up with the basic idea that to punish the fans you punish the club. The theory says that by punishing clubs with closed door home matches, the fans will become so distraught that they will never ever utter a racist chant again. Only problem is some clubs are continuously besieged by racism.
The concept of punishing the club to punish the fans would be nice if it worked, but fans have shown they don’t care. Yes, their club gets hurt, but my guess is if they are in the stadium to be racist, they aren’t too concerned with how what happens to their club. Sure these folks will whine and moan about the “injustice”, but then they’ll move on to the next chance to hurl abuse at players.
In the end all that happens is the club loses out on matchday revenue, suffers some humiliation, and then continues on in their unenviable task of attempting to combat racism.
If UEFA is serious about getting rid of racism, they need to go after the fans specifically. Have directives for clubs to round up fans who make racist chants. Then get their names and ban them for life from buying tickets. Yes, some fans will still be able to get tickets, but it will certainly help reduce the masses of racists in the stands.
Put cameras in the stands, increase the police presence, encourage fans to rat out people near them who are being racist, but make sure the measures are actually going to do something to stop racism. Even UEFA seems to think there isn’t much point behind some punishments for racism. Last year a club was fined more for being late to return to the pitch after halftime than another club was for racist chanting. If that isn’t the best example of how inefficient some of these procedures are, nothing is.
It also isn’t always the clubs fault that fans are racist. I highly doubt Lazio went through the list of ticket applications and said 700 of the tickets would go towards racist fans. Any fans who had been banned before were already prevented from purchasing tickets. I’d love for someone to explain exactly what more a club could do, especially for an away game.
All we can do now is wait for UEFA to enact reforms; yes, you can start laughing now, and urge clubs to come up with new ideas to identify racists at their home grounds. Until that happens you can’t punish a club because some fans decided to display their idiocy away from home.