What is ‘automatic forfeit’ penalty suggested by FIFA president to combat racism at stadiums?

Racism towards players has been a long standing problem in football. Despite Europe having the best infrastructure and leagues that aim to take football to the next level, football continues to be plagued by incidents of racism.

Incidents of Mario Balotelli, Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Vinicius being racially abused in their respective leagues are well documented. The issue however has come into spotlight after AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan and Coventry City midfielder Kasey Palmer were racially abused by Udinese and Sheffield Wednesday fans.

What is FIFA president’s ‘automatic forfeit’ penalty suggestion?

As of now, teams are usually given stand closure order or fines if their fans racially abuse players. Recently, Lazio were handed a one-match stand closure after supporters directed racial abuse towards Romelu Lukaku during their team’s Italian Cup win over local rivals Roma.

FIFA intends to implement stricter punishments, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino suggesting that if a team’s fans engage in racist actions causing disruptions to the integrity of football, the team should forfeit the match.

“The events that took place in Udinese and Sheffield on Saturday are totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable,” Infantino said on Sunday. “There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination — both in football and in society. The players affected by Saturday’s events have my undivided support.”

Further, in a media release, FIFA has urged all its members and stakeholders to come together and take action against racism in football as they said, “We need ALL the relevant stakeholders to take action, starting with education in schools so that future generations understand that this is not part of football or society.

FIFA has previously come under scrutiny for not being active to combat and eradicate racism from the sport, most notably when a Real Madrid forward was racially abused by Valencia fans in 2023. Valencia eventually were found guilty and were fined twenty nine thousand dollars and were forced to play behind closed doors for three home games.

Vinicius has been subject to racial abuse several times in La Liga.

What further punishments should a team face for racist fans?

FIFA has stated on X (formerly Twitter) that if a team and their fans engage in any racial activities, strict action would be taken against them. In a media release they said, “As well as the three-step process (match stopped, match re-stopped, match abandoned), we have to implement an automatic forfeit for the team whose fans have committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned as well as worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racists.”

FIFA introduced a new three-step mechanism in its competitions in 2017 to combat racism and wrote a letter to all its stakeholders, urging them to implement the system two years later as part of the organization’s “principle of zero tolerance” towards racism.

However, it remains to be seen how FIFA decides to implement these changes and penalties in its competitions. FIFA has been previously accused by fans and players alike of only preaching and not practicing.


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