Panafrican News Agency

Switzerland: FIFA tell referees to abandon matches in the face of discrimination from fans

Zurich, Switzerland (PANA) - Referees will have the power to abandon matches in the face of discrimination from the stands under a new three-step procedure unveiled by FIFA ahead of the start of the Confederations Cup in Russia.

In addition, the world governing body has announced it will deploy anti-discrimination observers at all games of the tournament to monitor the behaviour of supporters of both teams.

The FIFA media outlet said: "Under the three-step procedure, referees will have the right to first stop the match and request a public announcement that any discriminatory behaviour must cease, then to suspend the match until such behaviour stops, and finally to abandon it completely."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: "The work that has been carried out in FIFA World Cup qualifiers in all confederations will now also be implemented for the first time in a FIFA tournament.

"Together with the possibility to apply the three-step procedure, these are ground-breaking changes in the global fight against discrimination that will mark the 2017 edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup.

"Both initiatives are extra tools for the referees and match officials to prevent discriminatory attitudes and ensure that the atmosphere in the stadium is one of fair play and respect."

Hosts Russia kick off the eight-team tournament against New Zealand in St Petersburg on Saturday. The final is also scheduled to take place in St Petersburg on 2 July.

PANA recalls that FIFA's new position may have been sparked by an incident on 30 April which involved Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari.

Muntari, who plays for Italian side Pescara, abandoned the pitch, saying he had been booked for complaining about racist chanting from the crowd during his team’s 1-0 defeat at Cagliari in Serie A.

Muntari was shown the yellow card for dissent by referee Daniele Minelli in the 90th minute and walked off the pitch in protest during stoppage time, leaving his team to play the last few minutes with 10 men.

The 32-year-old told television reporters that a group of fans had been insulting him from the start of the match, including a group of children. He said he offered the children his shirt to set an example but the insults continued in the second half.

“There was a little kid doing it with his parents standing nearby,” said Muntari, who played for Portsmouth and also spent a season on loan at Sunderland. “So I went over to him and told him not to do it. I gave him my shirt, to teach him that you’re not supposed to do things like that. I needed to set an example so he grows up to be nice.

“[The referee] told me I should not talk to the crowd. I asked him if he had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game,” Muntari added. “The referee should not just stay on the field and blow the whistle, he must do everything. He should be aware of these things and set an example. I am not a victim. But if you stop the matches I am convinced that these things won’t happen any more.”

Italy has struggled to stop racist chanting in its stadiums and there have been a number of incidents over the years.

In one of the most serious in 2013, the Milan team abandoned the pitch during a friendly in the town of Busto Arsizio after home fans insulted Ghanaian midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Under guidelines introduced following that incident, the referee is supposed to alert the fourth official who should in turn report the incident to the public security department responsible for policing at games.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 15June2017