Uefa ducks racism issue with 'pathetic' fine for Serbia

Dec 14, 2012

European governing body fined Nicklas Bendtner more for wearing sponsored pants

UEFA'S decision to fine Serbian FA a paltry £65,000 for the mass brawl that marred the end of the recent Under-21 game against England has been greeted with howls of derision by the British press and led to renewed claims that the international football authorities are not interested in tackling racism.

Serbia's fine is actually smaller than the one handed to Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner for showing off sponsored underpants during a match at Euro 2012, prompting plenty of comment about football's priorities.

The match in Serbia last October ended in chaos, with England players being subjected to racist abuse and several fights breaking out. But Daniel Taylor of The Guardian says: "The perception will be that loud and intimidatory monkey chants tumbling down from the stands and a violent melee among players and coaches is somehow less important to Uefa than protecting its sponsors.

"The overriding impression is of a challenge ducked rather than confronted."

The words "racism", "racist" and "racial" do not even appear in the Uefa statement accompanying the punishment, notes Oliver Kay in The Times.

The paper accepts that two Serbian coaches have been banned for two years (although their punishments will likely be reduced on appeal), and that the Under-21 team will have to play a match behind closed doors. But it is not enough.

"Sorry, but the punishment is woefully inadequate," writes Kay. "Serbia is a marvellous sporting nation, but it has a recurring problem with those who follow - and, quite evidently, some of those who represent - its football teams."

But the abuse faced by England's black players in Serbia was not unusual. "Uefa whispers its concern. Pathetic," rages Henry Winter in The Daily Telegraph. "It's all talk the talk, never walk the walk in Nyon. On the banks of Lake Geneva, they organise picnics rather than search parties for the lost moral compass of European football."

He describes the punishment as "unbelievable" and "scarcely credible". The English FA not have much moral high ground but at least it is trying to tackle racism, he says.

"Enough is enough. Uefa's president, Michel Platini, surely has to feel the widespread anger towards Serbia, towards their shocking treatment of the likes of the England Under-21s full-back Danny Rose," he adds, referring to the England player who was subjected to monkey chants and had missiles thrown at him.

But the Telegraph also reports that Platini could appeal for the punishment to be increased, and claims that the prosecutor had called for more "drastic" measures.

Meanwhile several players, notably Anton and Rio Ferdinand, who have been caught up in race rows over the last year, have also criticised Uefa.

"Wow Uefa ain't serious with their punishment... So showing a sponsor is worst than racism and fighting!" wrote Anton on Twitter, referring to the Bendtner fine.

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It's a difficult issue to fix. Here in the UK we have an over-reaction by the media and the FA to some race-related issues. I don't condone them at all, but over-reacting to them simply creates a counter-reaction from the racists who "up the ante".

This then becomes part of the background to the UEFA investigation and then add to that the FA were very bad losers to the 2018 World Cup decision and our press and the FA were mouthing it off loudly to the whole world. In that context we may not be taken as seriously as we might sometime deserve.

I did not actually see this incident in its entirety, but it would not surprise me if once again our gobby and hypocritical media and FA were just looking hyping up the whole thing or not looking carefully or objectively at what the 2 England players were actually doing.