UEFA urged to take stronger action in tackling racism

Anti-racism campaigners and politicians have demanded UEFA change its approach towards racism after England players were victims of abuse during Monday’s 5-1 over Montenegro in Podgorica.

Racist chanting was directed at several England players – including Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi – during the match.

UEFA has previously been criticised for issuing paltry fines for such abuse, and campaigners said it is clear the European governing body must change tack.

Kick It Out campaigner Troy Townsend said UEFA had “failed the game” in its handling of racist abuse.

Asked for his reaction to the abuse, Townsend told Sky Sports News: “Outrage, because in this day and age we’ve had the opportunity to deal with this kind of stuff, we’ve had the opportunity to put some strong messages out about racism and UEFA have failed the game again.”

Townsend said he expected UEFA to issue another fine but for nothing to truly change.

“I’d like them to take the strongest possible action,” he said.

“I’d like them to stop all the gimmicky stuff now and really come down hard on these nations who are still putting our black players under this kind of pressure and I’d like them to be able to come out and stand in front of football and give us the reasons why they are making the decisions they’re making…

“What will happen? A fine, as normal. The fine which will probably amount to nothing to be honest.

“Will they stadium ban this time? They might close a section of the stadium but I don’t think anyone can second guess what UEFA are going to do on this.”

Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) said it had designated the match as “high risk” prior to it taking place, and called for UEFA to act decisively.

“We commend the reaction of the England players involved, no human being should have to face abuse and vilification for their race or identity, something that many Montenegrins will understand from the divisive and bloody recent history of the Balkans,” FARE said in a statement.

“We hope that UEFA will act decisively, the sanctions that could be applied for an offence of this kind range from a partial stadium closure to full stadium closure.”

The statement added: “The challenge of tackling racism and other forms of discrimination in European football however remains an ongoing issue. The societal change and education that is the ultimate solution is slow to take place.

“Even in the countries of Western Europe where there has been investment and focus on these issues discrimination remains a stain on football.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the abuse “disgusting” in a tweet, while his deputy Tom Watson was critical of UEFA.

“The appalling racial abuse directed at England footballers in Montenegro cannot be allowed to continue,” Watson wrote in a tweet.

“For far too long UEFA has obfuscated its responsibilities. Officials must heed the significant words of Raheem Sterling and impose a full stadium ban.”