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FIFA adopts stricter punishments for racist behavior

updated 2:09 PM EDT, Fri May 31, 2013
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said "despicable events" cast a "long shadow" on soccer this year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FIFA takes a tougher stance on racist behavior, as one punishment could be relegation
  • Teams could also be thrown out of a tournament or deducted points
  • Players face a minimum suspension of five games for committing a racist infraction

(CNN) -- FIFA approved tougher penalties for racist behavior, including possible relegation, in a move that one anti-racism organization said will bring soccer "in line" with other sports.

The sanctions, FIFA revealed at its congress in Mauritius on Friday, come in two stages. They were initiated at a time when incidents of racism continue to make headlines around the world and several months after FIFA set up an anti-racism task force.

Punishments for first offenses bring a warning, fine or clubs being forced to play games in empty stadiums. A second offense, or one deemed "serious," could result in demotion, a deduction of points or expulsion from a tournament.

Soccer's global governing body also said that any individual committing a racist infraction should be suspended for at least five matches.

It's now up to FIFA's member associations, who number more than 200, to implement the new punishments. Only one member -- it wasn't known which one -- voted against the measures.

"There have been despicable events this year that have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. "I am speaking of the politics of hate -- racism, ignorance, discrimination, intolerance, small-minded prejudice, that uncivilized, immoral and self-destructive force that we all detest."

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Kevin-Prince Boateng of A.C. Milan walked off in protest when he was racially abused during a friendly in January, and Greece's football federation banned AEK Athens' Giorgos Katidis for five games in April and fined him for a Nazi-style goal celebration.

Kick It Out, the anti-racist body, welcomed Friday's development.

"It is something the organization has been campaigning on, and stricter punishments for discrimination more generally, for many years," chair Lord Herman Ouseley said on Kick It Out's Web site. "We hope to see the practical implications of this ruling.

"FIFA is setting an example to bring football in line with other sports which don't have problems around discrimination and unacceptable behavior."

Meanwhile, FIFA announced three women would take their place on the executive committee, which votes, for instance, on where the World Cup is held.

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