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Italy must act against racism in stadiums, says Federation chief

Italy must act against racism in stadiums, says Federation chief
Soccer Football - UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying draw - The Convention Centre, Dublin, Ireland - December 2, 2018 Italy's football federation president Gabriele Gravina arrives before the draw Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley -
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JOHN SIBLEY(Reuters)
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ROME (Reuters) – Italian football and government authorities must act against racism in stadiums even if only one spectator is involved, Italian Football Federation (FIGC) head Gabriele Gravina said on Thursday, adding that a VAR-style system would be used to root out offenders.

Several clubs have escaped sanctions over alleged racist incidents after Serie A’s disciplinary tribunal ruled that the chanting was not widely perceptible in the stadium, even though television viewers heard it.

The most recent case was at Cagliari where Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey noises but no action was taken against the Sardinian club.

“It astonishes me that some chanting can be heard clearly and some cannot, so we need to work out why that is, but it’s not normal” Gravina told reporters.

“I’m not interested in how loud or how much chanting there is but in the principle behind it,” he added. “I’m not interested if it can be clearly heard or not. If it is just one, two or 10 people doing it, we need to intervene.”

Gravina did not give exact details about how the surveillance would work but suggested it could be used in real time like the VAR system which allows referees to watch replays of key incidents on a pitchside monitor.

“Clubs today are capable of identifying those responsible by using technology. We are experimenting the system and will talk about that soon,” he said.

“We have collaborated with the Ministry of the Interior and set some very strict laws with equally severe sanctions,” he added.

“So we will use technology, but we can only do it with the help of the police and of the Ministry of Interior.

Racism has long been a blight on European soccer, with racist incidents during matches reported sporadically and abuse levelled at players on social media.

In the latest high-profile incident, Bulgarian soccer chief Borislav Mihaylov resigned on Tuesday after fans taunted England’s black players with Nazi salutes and monkey chants during a Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia, prompting match officials to halt the game twice.

“What happened in Sofia confirms that racism is a despicable phenomenon spread throughout the continent, not only to Italy, that needs to be condemned with the utmost severity,” said Gravina.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)

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