Campaigners including the FARE network and English football have reacted with disappointment to UEFA’s sanctioning of Serbia for racism at a European Championships under- 21 qualifying match in October.
Serbia were given one of the severest sanctions meted out to a national association for racism by their fans, and violence on the pitch in Krusevac but in the context of the incident, which was seen as a new low in European football, a stronger sanction was expected to help set out a clear line on racism in football.
The Serbia under-21s will be forced to play their next match behind closed doors, have been fined €80,000 with four Serbian players suspended for between two and four matches and two members of the coaching staff suspended for two years.
FARE has been lobbying for stronger and clearer sanctions as one means of addressing discrimination in football.
Executive Director Piara Powar reacted by saying, “We are disappointed in the totality of the sanction handed out to the Serbian FA. The original offences warranted a more severe punishment than a ban on spectators for one match.
“This is a moment in which leadership to challenge discrimination is needed from all authorities. This sanction falls short of that objective.
“We fully acknowledge the unilateral action taken by the Serbian FA in suspending players and sacking coaches in the wake of the match, but they need to demonstrate a wider commitment to educate their supporters and work towards tolerance in the future.”
Troy Townsend of UK campaigners Kick It Out, whose son Andros played in the match for England, told the BBC, “Steps need to be taken to make sure these things don't happen again and I'm not sure that is going to be the case.
“It's not nice for anyone to be watching those pictures, players being chased around the pitch, the chanting, and coaches being assaulted.”
Reaction from English authorities
The English FA reacted in anger with General Secretary Alex Horne saying “We are disappointed with the sanctions levied by UEFA with regards to the racist behaviour displayed towards England's players.
“Racism is unacceptable in any form, and should play no part in football. The scenes were deplorable and we do not believe the sanction sends a strong enough message.”
British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said: “I am disappointed in the punishment that has been handed to the Serbian FA given the widespread racist abuse that England's Under 21 team suffered that night. Racism is completely unacceptable and we need tough sanctions to help combat it.”
UEFA has the right to appeal the decision of its control and disciplinary board, which sits as a quasi-independent body, and is thought to be considering whether to do so.
Reaction in European media outlets was mixed with respected weekly Der Spiegel describing it as a “hard sanction”, Spanish newspaper El Correo described it as a “last chance for Serbia”, whilst Italian and French media reported on the issue with no commentary.
The full sanctions
• The Serbia Under-21 nation team ordered to play their next UEFA competition home match behind closed doors.
• The Football Association of Serbia was fined £80,000.
• Serbia fitness coach Andreja Milunovic was suspended from all football-related activities for two years, the second of which is suspended for a probationary period of three years.
• Serbia assistant coach Predrag Katic was suspended from all football-related activities for two years, the final six months of which are suspended for a probationary period of three years.
• Serbia's Goran Causic suspended for four UEFA national team competition matches.
• Serbia's Ognjen Mudrinski suspended for three UEFA national team competition matches.
• Serbia's Filip Malbasic was suspended for three UEFA national team competition matches.
• Serbia's Nikola Ninkovic was suspended for two UEFA national team competition matches.
• The disciplinary proceedings opened against Serbia player Aleksandar Pantic were dismissed.
• The FA has received a warning for improper conduct by its team (more than five cautions).
• England's Steven Caulker suspended for two UEFA national team competition matches.
• England's Thomas Ince suspended for one UEFA national team competition match.