Football comment: The sheer effrontery of the Serbian FA to claim that no racism was evident during Tuesday night’s Euro 2013 play-off can surely only be matched by the fear that Uefa will again let them off the hook.
At a glance, European football’s governing body has issued fines of £107,000, £16,000 and £11,000 to the Balkan nation’s football authorities for incidents of racism and hooliganism over the last nine years.
On one occasion the punishment extended to Serbia’s away fans being banned from attending three away games.
Yet Tuesday night’s match, which saw England’s black players subjected to vile monkey chants as well as being targeted with missiles, is an indicator that these paltry disciplinary measures are having little effect.
Worse still, Uefa’s meek response to such incidents seems to have emboldened the Serbian FA, by no means alone in having problems with racism in their country, who have shamefully denied that anything unsavoury took place — despite racist chants being clearly audible to anyone watching the match from the comfort of their home.
Uefa have long talked a good fight on racism and hooliganism. Only last year their president Michel Platini said that Serbia would face a ban if they were involved in another incident like that seen in Krusevac.
Now it is time for Platini to make good on his bold words. Otherwise his organisation will become an irrelevance in the fight against racism or, much worse, complicit in its spread.
The fact remains that footballers, often criticised for being overpaid, are workers. And, as former footballer Luther Blissett pointed out at the CWU Black Workers’ Conference last weekend, the pitch is a footballer’s workplace — and no-one should have to go to work in fear of being racially abused or assaulted.
The inevitable riposte to English critics of Serbia is that we are in no place to point fingers, given recent racism rows involving Luis Suarez and John Terry. The argument is not invalid, but in both instances the authorities took action, while Terry faced a criminal trial.
Uefa have subjected Serbia to no such scrutiny, something which must now surely change.