FIFA is set to enact a 3-step plan to combat an ongoing battle with racism.

Particularly in Russia, non-white soccer players have been subject to taunts and racist harassment primarily from fans.

The 3-step procedure to fight discriminatory incidents at matches begins with allowing referees to first stop the match. They will then be able to request an announcement to assist in the particular case. If the behavior persists, the referee then has the option to suspend the match following another warning announcement. Lastly, the referee can decide to abandon the match completely if fans choose not to cooperate.

Outside of the referee’s powers, FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee has the ability to set sanctions on soccer federations, clubs, officials, plays and their representatives.

Failure to follow the code of conduct regarding discriminatory behavior can lead to teams being fined. Offending fans may be banned from all future matches and stadiums.

A spokesman told SBS News it “has a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination” and “has been implementing a series of measures to fight discrimination and promote diversity, including an Anti-Discrimination Monitoring system active since 2015.”

What Incidents Led to These Rules?

The infamous 2011 incident where Brazil’s Roberto Carlos had a banana thrown at him caused the most controversy; Reports of him weeping the locker room followed the event. Despite this situation, it was not considered illegal so no further repercussions or actions were taken.

Lack of action and consequence has led to fans being more emboldened to freely spew their toxic messages. Racist acts like what happened to Carlos slowly started to become the norm.

One of the most notorious incidents to occur was during a March match between Russia and France. Black French players N’Golo Kante, Ousmane Dembele and Paul Pogba became subject to fans in the Saint Petersburg stadium making monkey sounds and yelling racist chants at them.

As a result of this, FIFA fined Russia 30,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $39,000 US dollars) for its third racist offense of the season.

The teams will play each other at the World Cup in Russia this month.

Russia Premier League club Zenit Saint Petersburg was also charged twice by Europe’s football authority UEFA over racist fans.

The national team has even been fined for racist behavior at the last 2 European championships.

Last year Moscow captain Leonid Mironov was accused of calling rising soccer star, Rhian Brewster, the “n-word”  during an abusive rant in December at a UEFA Youth League match. However, FIFA did not pursue the matter.

English football anti-discrimination body Kick it Out’s chair Lord Herman Ouseley called the outcome a “disgrace”.

“With this outcome, there has to be little confidence that FIFA can effectively deal with any potential incidents of racism and discrimination that may occur during this summer’s World Cup,” Ouseley said in April.

What To Expect

The World Cup begins on June 14th, kicking off in 11 Russian cities. People will not just be watching for entertainment, they will also be tuning in to see how the country’s notoriously poorly-behaved fans will be treated if an incident were to arise.

Alexei Smertin, who has played professional soccer in Russia, France and England for over 16 years has been spending more time in classrooms and in the stands, serving as Russian soccer’s official anti-racism inspector.

“Sometimes, a small group of people do stupid things,” said Smertin. “We need to punish people if they do something wrong.”

Smertin will be in the stands watching for any offensive fans. There will also be video monitoring present, seeking out inflammatory signs.

While he hopes that this modern history of racism will remain in the history books, Smertin still worries that with the international attention on the issue, the damage is already done.


Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons