by Noel Draper
Once again I feel forced to aim my weekly inane ramblings at the governing bodies of European and World football due to their constant inability to deal with real life issues that affect fans and players alike. This week? Racism.
Now, I won’t go into the historical details of racism, or its continued unwelcomed place in our society or why it is still happening world wide for obvious reasons but I will say this…
UEFA and FIFA care more about money than they do about racism and racists.
This much is clear. Very clear. Proof?
Well they fined Porto £17,600 for monkey taunts aimed at Mario Balotelli after a Europa League match and then fined Manchester City £20,000 for appearing one minute late for the second half of another tie. The reason for the second fine was obviously due to television times and advertising. The reason for the first? Lip service.
When Sepp Blatter came out and said that on the pitch racism could be dealt with by a simple handshake he claimed that he was a victim of the oldest chestnut in the book, a misunderstanding. When asked about racism in the game and he replied with, “I would deny it. There is no racism.” He then went onto say that he was “personally leading the battle against racism in football.” This is, once again, lip service.
Before a ball had been kicked in anger at the tournament, anti racism campaigners were applauding UEFA’s stance on the subject of racism. That is, right up until the head of UEFA, Michel Platini, decided to muddy the waters a bit by stating that if any person left the field of play due to racist chants then they would be yellow carded. This was, of course, in direct response to Balotelli saying that he would walk off the pitch if he heard any racist chants. Platini then tried to back track and told reporters that they would support any referee that stopped a game for this reason. It’s our old friend lip service again.
Within days of training camps being filled across Poland and the Ukraine it was reported that the Dutch team heard monkey noises whilst having a training session. The Dutch FA didn’t make an official report to UEFA and because of this the governing body rather stupidly said that they wouldn’t investigate the incident. This obviously flies in the very face of their racism policy which is why a few days later they back tracked and said that they would now like to investigate it thank you very much if you don’t mind. This is, of course, more lovely lip service.
To give UEFA their due they have been a bit more proactive in the last couple of days with investigations into alleged abuse aimed at Balotelli and Czech defender Gebre Selassie. Time will tell whether it will result in anything other than a mild slap on the wrist for both sets of offending fans.
Now compare their stance on racism with their draconian laws on sponsors rights. There are 14 main sponsors from a car company to a drinks manufacturer and each of them are guaranteed to have their image rights plastered over everything moving or not. The laws also prohibit any competitor from gaining any commerical success on the back of the finals. Have you seen any non sponsor direct competitor adverts during any screening of a game? Thought not.
What about the lovely Pepsi Arena just over the river from the National Stadium. Seen it? You won’t. Heard about it? Fat chance. It carries on with stories of cans of the wrong soft drink not allowed in the fan zones and very expensive but horrible lager on sale at outlets. All policed by the rigorous marketing rights arm of UEFA. Countries are even told that if they want the tournament they must agree to these rules even if it means forcing a law through respective governments regarding image rights. This is not lip service. Far from it.
So UEFA, If you can do it for image rights why can’t you do it for racism? I’ll tell you why shall I? Money. Pure and simple. Stopping racism costs money. Letting companies do what they like once they are official gains you money. Sure you try and make all the right noises, you produce the right literature and you put your name to some fantastic schemes but in the end if your heart isn’t in it then it’s not worth doing is it?