Yesterday, Bernardo Silva received a one-game suspension, was fined £50,000, and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for a tweet the Football Association deemed “aggravated breach” of it’s rules against racism. Italian club Hellas Verona was recently assessed a one-match partial stadium closure for racially abusing Mario Balotelli earlier this month. Bulgaria was given a one-match stadium ban and a €85,000 fine for racial abuse aimed at Tyrone Mings during a Euro 2020 qualifier at the end of October. Last weekend, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder Taison left the field in tears after he was racially abused by Dynamo Kyiv fans.
The current disciplinary regime isn’t working. Racism continues to plague European soccer. It’s a weekly phenomenon. I know we aren’t going to stamp racism out of football or solve the problem by changing the discipline meted out to offenders, be they players or fans. I’m not naive. But we need some sort of change.
It’s time to up the ante and ramp up the sanctions. As far as “crimes” go in sport, racism is one of the most serious offenses we see. The punishment needs to fit the crime. One-game bans and pittance fines aren’t even a slap on the wrist. The offenders laugh it off and go back to business as usual before the next week.
Fine players and teams amounts that hurt their wallets — hundreds of thousands for players, millions for clubs. Start closing stadiums for multiple matches. Shutter problematic stands for months at a time. Heck, I don’t have a problem with shutting things down for the remainder of a season at repeat-offending clubs. Hand out lifetime bans to fans identified racially abusing players. Give the anti-racism lip service some teeth.
Would those changes make a difference? Who knows. But they’ll have more of a chance of affecting behavior that the current joke of a punishment system we’ve got.