Last night’s racist incidents at the Champion’s League match in Moscow between CSKA and Manchester City bring into sharp focus the need to make UEFA’s ‘Respect’ campaign more than just a slogan. Disciplinary action must be taken against clubs who allow their fans to behave in ways which discriminate against other fans, players, or members of the public at large connected with their home fixtures.
Last month, I was trained by the FARE Network (what used to be known as Football Against Racism in Europe) to be an observer at UEFA matches, watching out for incidents such as the one yesterday evening. In that training,we were shown clearly that racism, sexism, and homophobia is endemic in certain parts of Europe, especially in the east, and that in some cases it is clearly linked to neo-fascist groups.
We also heard from a senior representative of UEFA’s Control & Discipline Department about the new regulations, which have strengthened sanctions including the ability to enforce a partial or full closure of the stadium where the incident took place.
This most recent incident is surely an opportunity for UEFA to demonstrate that its tough new regulations work. The club must be punished and it must commit to passing on that punishment to the fans who so egregiously misbehaved by banning those that can be identified from the ground as well as seeking to use the power of football to educate its other supporters on why we should champion not deride diversity in the game and in society.
One can only hope that taking action now under the new disciplinary regime will send a message and bring an end to racist and discriminatory behaviour at football matches and indeed at other sporting events.
Russia in particular has to demonstrate that as a nation and as a people, it is fit to host international sporting occasions. The conduct of the CSKA supporters last night, and the institutionalised homophobia represented by its recent law changes, has put Russia very much on probation. Failure to clean up its act, any repeat of the incidents seen last night, any sign of discriminatory behaviour during the Sochi Winter Olympics, must cause FIFA to re-think taking the 2018 World Cup to Russia.