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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Racism rears its ugly head
Emile Heskey (left) is held back by Slovakia's Peter Hlinka
England striker Heskey (left) was taunted in Slovakia

If anyone believed racism in football was the shameful preserve of bygone era, recent events have proved it remains an all too prevalent issue.

And it is Uefa, European football's governing body, which has borne the brunt of the criticism over its failure to sufficiently punish guilty clubs and countries.

The treatment of Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole during England's game against Slovakia on Saturday merely highlighted what has already been a season tarnished by racist abuse across Europe.

  • French striker Thierry Henry was subjected to taunts and missile throwing while playing for Arsenal at PSV Eindhoven.

  • Players from Liverpool, Fulham, Blackburn and Ipswich complained of suffering racist abuse during their European matches at Valencia, Hadjuk Split, Sartid and CSKA Sofia respectively.

  • Slovakia fans directed monkey chants towards Heskey and Cole every time they touched the ball during England's 2-1 win on Saturday.

    Former England captain Terry Butcher described the scenes in Bratislava as "disgusting", a viewpoint which is shared by the majority of BBC Sport Online readers.

    But Uefa's handling of the PSV case - and reports that Slovakia's fans are unlikely to be banned from attending the corresponding fixture in England - has left many observers wondering just what punishment they will hand out, if any.

    PSV escaped with a fine of 13,000, while the disciplinary committee could find no conclusive evidence regarding the cases of Valencia and Hadjuk Split.

    If we had a simple solution we would introduce it
    Mike Lee of Uefa

    Paul Newman, the Football Association's head of communications, has called on Uefa to introduce tougher penalties.

    "We have protested in the strongest possible terms to Uefa," said Newman.

    "Uefa has just launched a campaign against racism and it needs to increase the penalties if it wants it to be effective."

    Newman is not alone in urging Uefa to introduce more severe punishment.

    BBC Sport Online has been inundated with emails from readers demanding action in order to stamp out racism.

    Many urge Uefa to use its powers to either suspend clubs from competition, deduct points from repeat offenders or ban the club or country's travelling fans.

    It was disgusting - you could hear monkey chants as soon as they touched the ball or were anywhere near the ball
    Terry Butcher

    However, Uefa says that it is already doing all it can to eliminate racism from Europe's football grounds, but that all cases must be individually examined by its disciplinary committee.

    "The results of Thursday's disciplinary hearing involving PSV Eindhoven were very disappointing," Mike Lee, Uefa director of communications, told BBC Radio Five Live.

    "It was clear that the punishment was too weak and sent out the wrong signals, but the disciplinary committee is a semi-independent body and is legally based.

    "We have the power to make clubs play behind closed doors or to prevent fans travelling to away games but it has to be done in a way which is legally sustainable.

    "Otherwise we face appeals - we face the use of court in any decision that we make."

    Thierry Henry
    Henry was a victim of racism in Holland

    Instead Uefa is insisting that the problem will only be solved by the joined-up thinking of all parties.

    "What is sensible is that we continue to strive to make sure that we work carefully with FAs, clubs, police and stewards because everybody's got a responsibility here," said Lee.

    "If we had a simple solution we would introduce it."

    But when part of Uefa's 10-point plan to stamp out racism urges clubs to "issue a statement saying the club will not tolerate racism", it is little surprise that one BBC Sport Online reader accuses football's governing body of "lacking guts".

    BBC Newsnight's Robin Denselow
    "Racism in football is back on the agenda"
    Slovakian FA's Dusan Tittel
    "We don't have a problem with racism"
    FIFA spokesman Marcus Siegler
    "I don't support a boycott"
    How should Uefa punish Slovakia?


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    13 Oct 02 | Sports Talk
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