Uefa continue to blunder on racism

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Fears of a problem with racism at Euro 2012 became a reality this week, when Holland's black players were subjected to monkey chants when taking part in an open training session.

This has been the first high profile case of a problem that was highlighted in this country by a BBC Panorama investigation, which revealed a large amount of racist chanting in the stadiums of Poland and Ukraine.

Uefa have responded to the issue in the kind of maladroit and infuriating manner that has become depressingly typical for them.

Their initial reaction was to deny it was racist chanting at all and that it was merely a protest by fans at the fact that Krakow had been overlooked as one of the host cities.

Holland captain Mark van Bommel was quite sure of what he heard when he and his teammates were jogging around the pitch in front of 25,000 fans at the Stadion Miejski, the home of Wisla Krakow.

Van Bommel decided to take the group to the opposite side of the pitch, away from the 500 or so that were doing the chanting, but he was forceful in his condemnation.

"It is a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz, that you are confronted with this," Van Bommel said.

"We will take it up with Uefa and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field."

The Dutch squad had visited the concentration camp earlier, and many of the other teams based in the area did so, or will do.

Uefa will likely be cursing such bad publicity surrounding an issue they have done their best to mishandle for a while, or at least appear to anyway.

Such a scandal is something they certainly do not need in the lead up to their showpiece event, where huge commercial interests are at stake and could become badly damaged by such PR.

Van Bommel's comments also hit home when describing what seems to be the habitual initial response of ignorance when incidents such as this happen, after it was put to him that the chants were a protest.

"Open your ears. If you did hear it and don't want to hear it, that is even worse," he added.

However, Europe's governing body did today confirm the incident had taken place and chose to downplay it in the endearing way in which they fail to take extremely serious issues seriously enough.

"Uefa has now been made aware that there were some isolated incidents of racist chanting that occurred at the open training session of the Dutch team yesterday in Krakow," a statement read.

"Should such behaviour happen at further training sessions, Uefa would evaluate the operational measures to be taken to protect players."

They claimed no investigation would be made as the Dutch FA had not made a formal complaint, which, as everyone knows, means it didn't happen and does not need to be addressed.

It is extremely disappointing that Dutch officials have failed to make a complaint, but why do they have to for any action to be taken?

It is baffling that Uefa feel they cannot address such a distasteful incident because they have seen nothing in writing – it's the failsafe defence of the arch-bureaucrat.

Van Bommel's comments should be enough to convince anyone who is undecided over whether action should be taken, but The Guardian have reported that he is unhappy that the governing bodies have not taken the incident more seriously.

It is not the first time this week that Uefa president, Michel Platini, has been confronted with the issue.

Italy and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli was typically outspoken when he was asked about the problem of racist abuse in the host countries' stadia.

"If [racism] does happen I would leave the pitch and go home," he said. "Racism is unacceptable to me, I cannot bear it. We are in 2012, it can't happen.

"If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to prison because I will kill him."

However, any notions of being supported by Uefa in this kind of protest were quickly corrected, as Platini informed Balotelli he would receive a booking if he left the pitch without the referee's consent.

Platini insisted that any action must be taken by the official in charge of the game, and did say they have the power to take players form the pitch if any such incident occurred.

"We will certainly support the referee if he decided to stop the game. But it's not a player, Mr Balotelli, who's in charge of refereeing," said the Frenchman.

"It's the referee who takes these decisions. So, the referee has been given advice and he can stop the game if there are problems.

"But it's not me, not the Uefa president, who is in charge of the game for 90 minutes. It's the referee. We will support the referee, of course – always."

So an emphatic statement of intent, and some strong leadership by Platini there, valiantly passing on responsibility of making big decisions on to the referees.

How keen do you think, for example, Howard Webb will be to become the man who stopped a Euro 2012 game while ongoing?

With Uefa's haplessness on the issue, you could be forgiven for not expecting their referees to be bullish in halting one of the fixtures.

As head of the federation, Platini is supposed to show leadership in instances like this, and not just limit the players' ability to protest against a despicable subject that is gargantuan in its importance compared to a few football matches.

So what if there is no action taken while vociferous racist abuse can be heard at a game? What if the referee does not take the players off the pitch? Will the players still be punished for being proactive in their protests?

Some spectators obviously think the price of admission to a football match gives them licence to spout whatever vile, prehistoric and ignorant crap they like.

They needed to be informed, assertively, that this is not the case, and the withdrawing of the right to attend games will be as effective a remedy as any other.

This is an issue that encompasses so much more than football, and players should not be punished for refusing to take abuse with emotionless obedience.

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