By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Football Association chairman Greg Clarke called for zero tolerance on racism on Tuesday and said it needed to be easier for referees to stop a game and take players off the pitch if racially abused.
Addressing an Equal Game conference organised by European soccer body UEFA at Wembley Stadium, Clarke said he had rewritten a planned speech after racist abuse of England players in Montenegro last week.
He said UEFA’s three-step protocol on tackling racism could be improved.
The protocol allows the referee to stop a match if ‘racist behaviour is of a strong magnitude and intensity’.
“There should be no judgement call on whether something is of a strong magnitude,” said Clarke. “Racism is racism and we should have zero tolerance for it.”
England defender Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chants during the Euro 2020 qualifier won 5-1 by his side in Podgorica while Raheem Sterling was also targeted.
Clarke said the protocol was designed to deal with mass chanting but abuse from one fan should be enough for the referee to act.
“Receiving a torrent of vile, racist abuse from one person when you are taking a throw-in or a corner is wholly unacceptable too,” he said.
“So we should look again at our definitions to make sure the protocol covers this, because this needs to stop.”
Clarke said the FA was looking at how incidents were dealt with in England and a board meeting last week agreed to review the processes for spectator misconduct and how clubs are sanctioned.
“I also worry that there is an undue burden on the player to report incidents themselves,” said the FA chairman.
He said every complaint should be investigated, rather than just reported by match officials, with video technology and lip-readers used.
“We all know what racism looks like. We should see how we can better report incidents through the UEFA match delegate or through employing specific spotters and take the weight off the players’ shoulders and act ourselves,” he said.
“The responsibility should not be on them to instigate action.”
Clarke was speaking after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, in an opening address, said he was ashamed to see banana skins thrown onto football pitches and hear monkey noises coming from the stands.
The Slovenian also spoke out against ‘sickening fascist nostalgia’ in stadiums and said it shamed soccer that there were still places in the world where women could not play or attend games.
“It is worrying to see certain leaders and politicians playing down these incidents when they occur in their own countries,” he added.
Momir Durdevac, the general secretary of the Montenegro FA, told delegates later through a translator that he had heard no racist abuse at the match and blamed a “handful of idiots’ if there had been any.
He said they should be condemned, rather than the country, and apologised “to all those who have gained a very bad impression from Podgorica.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)