UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino has previewed plans to act more decisively on racist behaviour in stadiums. Speaking at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester, Infantino proposed the partial closure of stadiums because “supporters of a club are also guilty”.
They are clear, harsh, known to everyone and it’s what we want to implement,
said Infantino of the new sanctions.
I think the idea of threatening to shut small areas, and by that I mean blocks and not entire stands, does provide some extra force behind self-policing,
said Dr Geoff Pearson from the Liverpool University Management School Football Industry Group, who was at Soccerex.
If fans can turn round to someone shouting racist abuse and say ‘if you keep doing that, this block will be closed’, it does empower fans.
European consumer law will require clubs to refund season ticket holders. “There are legal problems,” advised Pearson. “If you can’t go to a match because someone else has breached the ground regulations then you’ll want a refund. You are looking at refunds for everyone with season tickets in the closed section, that’s EU consumer law. A club couldn’t use the ticketing conditions because it would be an unfair contract term. So the club would be hit in the pocket, not only on matchday sales but also refunds to season ticket holders.
The issue of racism was also raised during the session on the Future of Scottish Football, when Scottish FA Chief Executive Stuart Regan firmly asserted the SFA’s policies and explained the work of its team of equity development officers. The SFA has recently issued a notice of complaint against Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green over alleged racist comments.
“Self-policing is the way forward in dealing with racism and homophobic behaviour,” said Pearson. “You make it unacceptable to engage in that behaviour in that context.” His study of English fans (available in his book published by Manchester University Press) has found that people who are racist in their behaviour outside of the stadium, do not express racism in the stadium because of peer pressure.