On Wednesday UEFA inexplicably sentenced Russian side CSKA Moscow to play their upcoming Champions League game against Bayern Munich with ‘partial closure’ of the Arena Khimki stadium following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure last week.
The verdict was released, read the full statement below, after uproar in the soccer world about the continued level of racist abuse in Russia and other Eastern European countries in recent years, with CSKA themselves denying the racist abuse of Toure ever occurred, despite clear audio and video footage showing the incident taking place in Section D behind the goal which has now been closed.
(MORE UEFA opens CSKA racism investigation, Yaya Toure says it’s not enough)
However the sanction imposed by UEFA on CSKA for their game against Bayern on Nov. 27 is laughable, in my opinion CSKA should have been thrown out of the competition. Yes, that would’ve caused uproar and unrest, but racism in soccer isn’t going to be stopped by ‘partial closures’ of stadiums, miniscule fines or getting players to hurriedly pass around a sign that reads “say no to racism” during the prematch anthem.
UEFA has missed a golden chance to set a precedence as to how racists who attend soccer games in Europe and across the world should be punished. Swift and harsh punishment should be the order of the day, and if domestic teams and national teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Champions League, Europa League and other big tournaments, then that should be a big enough punishment to make the clubs whose fans are guilty of such deplorable behavior stand up, take notice and do something to eradicate it.
(MORE CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner: ‘Yaya Touré made it up’)
Following the incident at CSKA Moscow, a formal charge was made by UEFA after Toure had complained to the referee during the game that a section of supporters made monkey chants and gestures at the Ivory Coast international during his sides 2-1 win in the Russian capital. Since then, CSKA have denied any racism took place, stating many other excuses and trying to blame the British media for creating a frenzy.
“We are surprised and disappointed by the racism allegations,” CSKA said on their website last week. “In a thorough study of the videotape, we found no racist insults directed at the guests by CSKA fans, and the delegate confirmed this at the end of the match.”
This incident is not an isolated one.
Across Russia in the past few seasons there have been numerous reports of racist abuse against players, Roberto Carlos had bananas thrown at him and racist banners waved about him when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala against Zenit St Petersburg and Krylia Sovetov Samara back in 2011.
In 2012 fans of Lokomotiv Moscow threw bananas at Anzhi defender Christopher Samba, while earlier this year a supporters group for Zenit wrote a statement demanding that the club didn’t sign any black players.
This has gone on long enough, and UEFA missed the perfect chance to do something meaningful in the battle against racism in soccer.
Here is the full statement from UEFA following the decision to punish CSKA for their fans’ behavior:
The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to PFC CSKA Moskva following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City FC on 23 October.
• Racist behaviour of CSKA supporters during the above-mentioned match (Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations).
• Partial closure of the Arena Khimki, where CSKA play their home games in UEFA competition: specifically, the Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to close sector D of the stadium during the club’s next UEFA competition home match.
CSKA’s next home fixture is scheduled against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League on 27 November in Moscow.
The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands. All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions. Following the entry into force of the new disciplinary regulations on 1 June, the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level – resulting in more severe sanctions to deter any such behaviour.
UEFA say it themselves in the final sentence, as terms such as “more severe sanctions” and “fight against racist conduct has been stepped up” are used.
But is forcing a closure to one small section of a stadium really enough punishment for widespread racist abuse of an opposition player?
I don’t think so. UEFA need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that by handing out insignificant punishments like this, they’re only further encouraging this awful behavior to take place. Fans aren’t scared of the repercussions of their actions, and they won’t be until tougher sanctions are made.
Europe’s governing body missed the perfect opportunity the make an example of CSKA and the disgusting behavior of a section of their fans.