Fifa chief Sepp Blatter criticizes Italian soccer for "unacceptable" racism punishment
Italian Federation fined Roma $65,000
AC Milan and Roma game halted for several minutes after visiting fans directed abuse at Mario Balotelli.
The head of world football’s global governing body has criticized Italian soccer for not cracking down hard enough on a team whose fans racially abused an opposition player.
Sunday’s goalless draw between AC Milan and Roma at the San Siro stadium was brought to a halt for several minutes after visiting fans directed abuse at home striker Mario Balotelli.
The Italian Federation fined Roma $65,000, which prompted a forthright response from Blatter.
“What is surprising and is not understandable for me, is that the disciplinary committee of the Italian Football Federation has taken a decision, not even 24 hours after the event, by just imposing a fine,” Blatter told FIFA’s official website.
“They have not made any investigation of what happened. And just to give a pecuniary sanction is not valid, that is not acceptable.
“You will always find money. What is $65,000 for such an incident? I’m not happy and I will call the Italian Federation. That’s not a way to deal with such matters.”
In response, the Italian Federation said it was acting within existing regulations but hopes that an agenda tabled at UEFA’s Executive Committee meeting in London later this month will enable it to take tougher measures.
On May 24, members of the European governing will vote on a proposal to introduce a minimum 10-match sanction for any discriminatory offenses – a ruling which could apply to all UEFA competitions from as early as July if passed.
“The UEFA Congress will determine new deterrents that will go from imposing a fine to the total closure of a venue,” said Italian Federation president Giancarlo Abete.
“These new rules will be received by our Code of Sport Justice once approved from (the start of) the 2013/2014 season.”
Speaking to Italian media on Monday, Abete’s views on the ineffectiveness of financial sanctions tallied with those of Blatter.
“Fines are not penalizing,” he said.
He added that his body wishes to close parts of a stadium where “episodes of racism take place” before taking the more drastic measure of playing matches without fans should incidents persist.
The club at the center of the row has also stated its desire to eradicate an issue that Abete says is damaging the image of Italian football.
“Roma condemns any form of racial abuse,” the Serie A club said on Monday. “This type of behavior from any football supporters, including ours, is completely unacceptable.
“We are committed to facing this issue head-on to rid our sport of this problem and promote respect for all.”
The newly-created FIFA anti-racism task force met for the first time earlier this month and proposed placing officials at matches in order to “identify potential acts of discrimination”, a suggestion that will be voted on by FIFA’s members later this month.
“It is incredible, that we had such incidents especially in the Italian Serie A in the San Siro between AC Milan and Roma, a very important match,” continued Blatter, who has been head of world football’s governing body since 1998.
“The referee had to stop the match for a few minutes in order to bring back calm. This is bad, because we are just holding this task force against racism.”
Roma’s sanction is not the first suffered by an Italian club this season.
Last month, Inter Milan were fined nearly $60,000 by European governing body UEFA after its fans were found guilty of “improper conduct” in chants directed towards Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
In February, Lazio received its fourth charge of racist behavior this season – with Roma’s city rivals having been fined nearly $300,000 after repeated fan transgressions.
On Monday, Milan chief executive officer Adriano Galliani was quoted by Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport as saying: “Just as violence at football grounds was eliminated, racist chanting can also be stopped if there is the necessary will.”
The task force was created after a series of incidents of racist abuse which have blighted the sport in recent years.
Balotelli’s Milan teammate Kevin-Prince Boateng, a member of the task force, walked off following racist chanting during an exhibition match against lower division team Pro Patria in January.
The English Premier League has also had to deal with racism cases. Chelsea’s John Terry and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez were fined and received lengthy bans for two separate offenses which occurred in 2011.
The English Football Association (FA) is due to vote this week on the introduction of a minimum five-game ban for any incident of racist abuse, which is half the proposed tally outlined by UEFA.
“We don’t have to follow UEFA,” FA chairman David Bernstein was reported to have said by British newspaper The Guardian. “Ours is a very detailed and thought-out proposal. It is not likely to be exactly in line with UEFA’s.
“Ours will have a minimum but it will have a clear acceleration from that minimum. We may well yet go beyond the 10.”