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Actions not words are required Sepp
2:00pm Thursday 31st October 2013 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
UNTIL the footballing authorities make good on their promise to show zero tolerance towards those guilty of racism, nobody will believe a word they say on the subject.
Racist abuse towards players is once again in the spotlight following complaints from Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure that he was targeted by CSKA Moscow supporters in a Champions League match last week.
Just days later, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the world governing body would have failed in its duty if a zero tolerance approach was not adopted.
His announcement, made as part of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations, certainly contained all the things people wanted to hear.
According to the 77-year-old, there would be warnings for offending clubs, followed by sanctions, including stadium closures, and then kicking teams out of competitions.
All things that had already been outlined in FIFA’s new anti-racism measures introduced earlier this year.
It’s all well and good saying you’re going to do this, that and the other to send out a message to offenders, particularly at a news conference, but actually doing it is another thing altogether.
Blatter now has to prove it wasn’t all hot air, and both him, the authority he heads and UEFA have a lot of convincing to do.
This, after all, is a man who, in 2011, claimed there was no racism in football. Also, almost at the same time Blatter was delivering his words of wisdom at the weekend, Italian club Lazio had its punishment of playing a match behind closed doors for racist chanting against Legia Warsaw reduced to a partial closure by UEFA.
So far, not so good.
The problem is that those who run the global game have nothing short of an atrocious track record when it comes to tackling racism.
For all the power they possess, nobody seems either capable or willing to flex their muscles to make the point.
By also handing out paltry financial penalties — Serbia were fined £65,000 after monkey chants were directed at England Under 21 players last year — they can’t be taken seriously.
How can we forget the laughable situation when, at the 2012 European Championships, Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for wearing sponsored underpants?
That sent out a clear message.
The message that it’s OK to offend players because of the colour of their skin but woe betide anyone who risks slightly annoying a rival business.
There are, of course, plenty more examples of ineptitude from FIFA and UEFA when it comes to stamping out racism too numerous to detail here.
Maybe Blatter’s words will change that but I’m not going to hold my breath.
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