Punishment Fitting the Crime?

Four Incidents From the Past

On 18 March 2021, a Round of 16 match between Rangers FC and SK Slavia Praha took placein the UEFA Europa League. The game was overshadowed by an altercation between SK Slavia Praha’s Ondrej Kudela and Rangers’ Glen Kamara. Kamara alleges that Kudela spewed racist remarks towards him. Kudela subsequently received a 10-game ban, while Kamara received a 3-game ban. Previous disciplinary hearings give context to the weakness of this decision. Just how serious are the authorities about rooting out racism?

Rio Ferdinand skipping a drug test

On September 23, 2003, Rio Ferdinand missed his scheduled drug test. Two days later, he took the drug test and came out negative. The principle of missing a drug test was of such high importance to the FA that Ferdinand was handed an 8-month ban. An 8-month ban that caused him to miss the rest of the season and England’s Euro campaign in 2004. To make matters worse, the tournament was England’s best chance of winning the tournament in recent memory. Greece ended up winning their maiden tournament. Worse than racist abuse?

On this day: October 29, 2003 – Rio Ferdinand charged by FA after missing a drugs  test - Sport360 News

Figure 1: Rio Ferdinand faced an 8-month ban for missing a drug test

Kieran Trippier giving the heads up

Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier received a 10-week ban for informing his friends that he was moving to Atletico Madrid from Tottenham. He jokingly encouraged them to bet on his move. While he did violate the FIFA code of conduct, surely racism should be taken more seriously than Trippier being loose with his words?

Strange eating habits for Suarez gets four month ban

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Suarez bit Chiellini in a Group Stage game. He was sent from the tournament and received a nine-game ban. The same year, he transferred from Liverpool to Barcelona. Here the mathematics of football bans does not seem to add up. Devaluing another footballer’s worth through racist remarks, as Suarez did to Patrice Evra seems to be regarded as worth just one game more serious than biting someone. Biting in football is rare, because of the outrage and shock it attracts. Racism gets treated with the manicured club statement, maybe an armband and the show goes on. Until the next racist remark eventually comes along. 

Luis Suarez Banned 9 Matches for Biting Giorgio Chiellini During 2014 World  Cup | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Figure 2: Suarez faced a 9 match ban for biting Chiellini during the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Adrian Mutu three match ban for punching an opponent., 

In 2011, Former Chelsea striker, Adrian Mutu punched a player against his former club Fiorentina. He received a 3-game ban for the tussle.

This act of aggression ironically is the same punishment, Glen Kamara received a 3-game ban for his perceived “role” in the incident. It seems strange to see a victim get punished. With this train of thought, teams could be racist to an opponent’s key player and if successful in getting them to react they would be banned for 3 games, potentially causing them to miss a Cup second leg, or important League match.

Racism does not belong in football. Racism does not belong on this Earth. To defeat racism, we need to stamp it out with full seriousness. Not treat it like any other rule. It needs to be completely removed from footballing culture, and a first step would be making the punishment fit the crime.

There has been a huge backlash over the plans of a European Super League. Clubs and supporters have issued statements over the equality of football clubs being thrown away. In order to protect the game, the fans should be protected. What about the equality of all human beings? It is really beautiful to see fans of rival clubs putting their rivalry aside, to fight for an equal game. However, some introspection is required to realise why there is a fraction of the reaction for the weekly racism in the game. Is racism not a threat to the sanctity of the game? In order to protect the game, the players should be protected. After all, what is football without players and fans?

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