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    FIFA agrees on stiffer penalties to stamp out racism

2006-03-18 07:27

ZURICH: Soccer's world governing body FIFA agreed on Thursday to punish acts of racism with severe penalties including the deduction of points and disqualification from competitions.

The proposals, put forward by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, were agreed on during the first day of a two-day executive committee meeting in which French international and Juventus player Lilian Thuram gave a testimony about racism in football, describing it as a "plague."

Confederations and national associations will be compelled to incorporate the measures and infringements could lead to a two-year exclusion from international soccer, FIFA said in a statement.

"I have repeatedly stressed FIFA's and my firm personal stance against racism and discrimination, but recent events have demonstrated that there is a need for concerted action and an urgency for more severe measures to be adopted in order to kick this evil out of the beautiful game," Blatter said.

FIFA's announcement of amendments to article 55 of its Disciplinary Code comes two days after England defender Rio Ferdinand had accused UEFA, the European confederation, of not doing enough to combat racism in the continent.

Ferdinand criticized the fines issued after England players suffered racist taunts in a friendly in Spain in November 2004, though both the match and sanctions were handled by FIFA.

"For too long now, European football authorities have not taken the problem of racism in the game seriously and refuse to acknowledge how widespread the problem is," Ferdinand said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Manchester United defender's comments came as the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a resolution on Tuesday which will provide extra sanctions for tackling racist behaviour by giving referees the power to abandon matches.

On Thursday, FIFA outlined the punishments which will be implemented on the world stage.

These will range from match suspensions to point deductions - three for a first offence, six for a second and relegation in case of further transgressions. A team could also be expelled from a competition depending on the severity of the case.

"Now that clubs and associations have an obligation to find a solution, they will find solutions necessary to eliminate this plague," Thuram said.

"Certain people take football hostage. Some people will never learn and that is the reason for which FIFA must intervene so as to return sanity to the game and keep these people away from the stadiums."

(China Daily 03/18/2006 page11)


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