11 01 2014
  12:37 am  
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Accused of being too soft on racism in the past, European football's governing body UEFA has vowed to crack down hard on offenders -- with 10-match bans for players and officials found guilty.

This year both UEFA and world governing body FIFA have come under pressure following AC Milan forward Kevin-Prince Boateng's decision to walk off the field in a match against Italian fourth tier side Pro Patria in January after suffering racist abuse from the crowd.


Former England soccer captain David Beckham


"It's still a scourge on the game," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told the Soccerex event, where leading football officials are meeting, in Manchester, England. "We have to have sanctions.

"What we are proposing is that if a player or official is found guilty then they will be suspended for 10 matches."

With several racist incidents making headlines in the past calendar year, UEFA is also prepared to punish supporters' racist behavior by closing sections of football grounds -- or, if need be, all of the stadium -- in cases of persistent fan abuse.

"If supporters are found guilty then there will be a partial closure of the stadium," added Infantino.

"This means the section where the offense took place will be closed. If there is a second offense by the club's supporters there will be full closure with a minimum $65,400 fine."

However, Infantino said UEFA would not be taking any action against Malaga despite the furious reaction of club owner and the Spanish club's coach in the wake of their team's European Champions League defeat in Germany on Tuesday.

Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, angered by two late goals his team conceded in the 3-2 defeat by Borussia Dortmund -- one of which appeared to be offside -- said on Twitter that the club's quarterfinal exit was "injustice and racism."

Coach Manuel Pellegrini added: "The third goal was an offside goal and there were all kinds of elbows and punches."

But Infantino said: "UEFA is not taking any action against any club from that point of view. I can understand that when you lose a match in the 93rd minute, emotions come up and you say things you don't really think."

UEFA will vote on its new racism proposals in London in May and if they are passed, the ruling could apply to all UEFA competitions from as early as July.

Europe's governing body has also asked its member associations to apply this new anti-racist strategy to their own domestic competitions, with the plans going to a vote of the UEFA congress in May.



Football's soul

Turning to the "cancer" of match-fixing, as Infantino put it, UEFA's general secretary characterized the problem as one that affected mainly "lower division" football despite concerns it is taking place in top matches.

In February Rob Wainwright, director of European law enforcement agency Europol, revealed the crime fighting organization believed the highest levels of the game were no longer safe from match-fixing.

A total of 380 games in Europe -- including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers -- were deemed suspicious by Europol, with 425 match and club officials and criminals involved from 15 different countries.

"We knew about these (Europol) cases before," said Infantino. "We had already taken sanctions against these cases before, our associations had already taken sanctions and banned players and officials.

"We are monitoring 32,000 matches across 365 days a year every year."

"Looking at the figures, we can see that some 0.7 % of matches, mainly in lower divisions, present some irregularities, not necessarily match-fixing.

"The result of matches is the soul of football, and we cannot allow anyone to attack the soul of football."

But Infantino acknowledged that UEFA could not tackle the problem match-fixing on its own and that a more co-ordinated approach was needed.

"We need the help of governments and law-enforcement agencies, because there is no way we can start looking into bank accounts or tapping phones. We need the authorities to help us.

"What is behind match-fixing is not to fix the match, why would you fix a match in the third division in Switzerland?

"It's because there is organized crime behind this, and organized crime is financing drugs and prostitution.

"That is why the authorities have to intervene and have to help us."

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