FIFA draws up new rules on racism

Updated: 2013-05-08 05:51

By Reuters in Zurich (China Daily)

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Extra officials may be set to be introduced to keep an eye on crowds for offensive behavior

FIFA has proposed the introduction of extra officials in stadiums to watch out for incidents of racism, plus a two-tier system of sanctions for teams whose followers indulge in discriminatory behavior.

The new officials "would identify potential acts of discrimination with the aim of easing the pressure on referees," FIFA said in a statement on Monday. They would also help gather evidence for disciplinary committees.

The inaugural meeting of FIFA's anti-racism task force also proposed that first or minor offenses be punished with lighter sanctions such as playing a match behind closed doors, a warning or a fine. Serious incidents and re-offenders would be hit with points deductions, expulsion from a competition or relegation.

The proposals will be put to FIFA's Congress in Mauritius at the end of the month.

English referee Howard Webb, one of the panel members, said match officials can not always be aware of what is happening off the field.

"We are very much in the front line, we are the first port of call for the players," Webb said.

"If we become aware of anything from the players or officials which they deem to be racist or discriminatory, then we've got an obligation to respond and referees will do that.

"You are not always aware of what's happening in the stands.

"Bear in mind that what we do as match officials is to shut the crowd out really, because we're trying to concentrate on the game itself, we are trying to focus on our job and not get distracted.

"Therefore ... it's not easy to know what's happened."

Three-step procedure

FIFA draws up new rules on racism

Webb said the new role should be performed by someone "who has a good understanding of what constitutes a discriminatory act within the stadium, and can therefore guide the match official.

"It could be someone like a venue coordinator, (it) could be someone in the stand, who could take the best position to get a feel for what's going on.

"It could be they have to move around the stadium to get a feel for what's happened, but it would take some of the pressure off the match officials."

European soccer's governing body, UEFA, issued guidelines four years ago outlining a three-step procedure to be followed in case of racist incidents during matches, putting the onus heavily on referees.

It said the referee should first stop the match and ask for announcements to be made over the public address system. The second step would be to suspend the match for a given period of time and, finally, abandon it.

Those rules have not yet been invoked in European club competition and in March UEFA said it would "fully support" referees who enforced them.

"Why that procedure has not been invoked, I don't know," said Webb, adding he had not been involved in a match where he felt it necessary to stop play.

"Maybe (it's) because there's an educational requirement needed for referees to make them aware it does exist."

Webb was involved in an English Premier League match at Swansea City in December during which Norwich City's Sebastien Bassong complained to him about racist abuse from a man in the crowd. The man was arrested and later charged.

"It worked really well on that occasion," Webb said. "It might be that racial gestures in the crowd are brought to the attention of the referee by the players, but it's possible that we wouldn't identify it when we're concentrating on the job that we're there to do."

(China Daily 05/08/2013 page22)