Spanish soccer has a bad reputation for being lax on racism, and for those inclined to leverage that history while assessing the punishment Villarreal was assessed for last week’s banana-throwing incident, a $16,700 fine will seem paltry. Yet if a club has cooperated with its federation, identified the offender, and taken other steps to deal with the problem (establishing a deterrent), is it fair to issue a harsh punishment just for the sake of placating critics?
Probably not, but in the face of news the club, who saw a fan throw a banana at Barcelona right back Dani Alves two weeks ago, will be fined the relatively paltry sum, detractors will ask whether Villarreal’s cooperation reflects genuine concern or another club just moving on from a minor inconvenience.
From the BBC, with information from Reuters:
“We have accepted the €12,000 fine,” a Villarreal spokesman told Reuters.
“The federation were though pleased with the quick and positive action that the club took by identifying the fan”
Within two days of the incident Villarreal said they had identified the culprit, withdrawing his season ticket and giving him a lifetime ban.
Spanish police then arrested the 26-year-old man, identified by local media as David Campaya Lleo.
If Villarreal’s steps reflect actual concern, then the ‘stay on your toes’ fine would be appropriate. Given a world of idiots, all you can ask is clubs act when they see one.
If, however, Villarreal’s comments reflect a type of damage control, the fine looks like a joke, and while it would be nice to say the Spanish federation should let actions (the punishment) speak louder than words, in this case, the actions coincide with the words. It all comes down to whether Villarreal can transcend Spain soccer’s reputation when it comes to racism.