FIFA President Sepp Blatter has softened his stance on eradicating racism from world football by punishing teams with relegation and points deductions. At an event in Zurich on Friday, the 77-year-old Swiss explained his worries that such measures could encourage fans to deliberately try and get matches stopped.
“Where does it end?” Blatter asked. “How far can we go? To what extent can we expect that a game is stopped, by players walking off the field?
“Can we stop it by deducting points or by relegating a team? Or will this lead to persons coming to the stadium wanting to stop the game intentionally?” Later, Blatter elaborated on his comments to reporters: “We have to do something but the danger is if we say the match will be replayed, or there will be a deduction of points or whatever, this can open the door for groups of hooligans to create these problems.”
Blatter’s reduced stance, while infuriating, is hardly surprising and only underscores how out of touch he is with the modern game and the culture that surrounds it. Yes, his ignorance is outlandish. Heck, it was only two years ago when Blatter stated that there was no problem with racism in football and those targeted should just “shake hands”. So maybe we should be giving the dinosaur more credit for how far he’s come.
When it comes to the issue of racism in football, Blatter needs to quit moving at a snail’s pace. We’ve seen him slow play a number of important issues – from World Cup construction concerns to the implementation of goal-line technology. But sanctions like points deductions and relegation for fans guilty of racism should have been in place months, nay, years ago. Fining clubs and banning fans from stadiums were good initial measures but they clearly haven’t cured the problem. In fact it only seems to have gotten worse.
Blatter’s backtracking on points deductions and relegation is as worrisome as it is ridiculous. The thought that such sanctions could spark fans into intentionally disrupting matches makes little sense. Sure, it could happen. And now that Blatter has floated the idea out there it’s probably more likely to occur (well done, Pres). But the potential positives to come from such sanctions – mainly, putting an end to supporters racial abusing players – far outweigh the potential negatives.