By Brian Bariyo Tumuramye
Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), world football’s governing body, doubled its minimum ban for racist incidents to 10 games, and will start inviting players to make victim statements at disciplinary hearings, according to its new disciplinary code.
Stricter handling of discrimination allegations is a key theme of the redrafted FIFA disciplinary code which comes into effect soon.
“Topics like racism and discrimination were updated, putting FIFA at the forefront of the fight against this appalling attack on the fundamental human rights of individuals,” the organization said in a statement on Thursday 11 July.
The minimum ban for players or officials raised from five to 10 games, and victims can soon be heard in person by FIFA judging panels.
“FIFA will not let down victims of racist abuse,” said the statement, adding they “may be invited by the respective judicial body to make an oral or written victim impact statement”.
“For a first offence, playing a match with a limited number of spectators and a fine of at least 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000) shall be imposed on the association or club concerned,” FIFA said.
In recent seasons, FIFA and European football body UEFA have closed cases of alleged racist abuse for lack of evidence beyond the testimony of the players involved.
Overhauling its disciplinary rules, FIFA is also preparing to open the doors of some judicial hearings, offer free legal counsel to parties, and publish more verdicts online.
“For the first time, certain types of disciplinary hearings – concerning doping and match-manipulation cases – will be open to the public if the parties request it,” FIFA said.
To modernise and improve its work, FIFA worked with football’s leading discrimination monitoring group, London-based Fare network.
The new code now includes specific language including sexual orientation as a discrimination issue, bringing it into line with FIFA’s statutes applying to 211 member federations worldwide.
“The changes to the disciplinary regulations are significant and we hope will allow FIFA to be more categorical in the way that they take action against discrimination of all kinds,” Piara Powar, executive director of Fare network said in a statement.
“We welcome the clear reference to homophobia,” he added. “FIFA has sanctioned acts of homophobia quite extensively in Latin America in particular, but the previous rules were not fit for purpose and were challenged at CAS in several cases.”
According to FIFA’s diversity and anti-discriminatory policy, “discrimination of any kind on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin … religion, sexual orientation is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion”.
Yet racism and homophobia remain rife in international football, with fans often taking aim at opposing team’s players.
Earlier this year, West Ham United handed apparent evidence to the Metropolitan police of Islamophobic abuse aimed at Liverpool forward and Egyptian national player Mohamed Salah.
In December, Italian club Inter Milan was penalised after its supporters made monkey noises at Napoli player Kalidou Koulibaly, a French-born Senegal defender.
FIFA’s move towards more transparency will see judicial panel leaders make the final decision – to approve a request in a doping case or require it in a match-fixing prosecution – on allowing the media in and live-streaming proceedings.
This follows a European Court of Human Rights ruling last year which required the Court of Arbitration for Sport to relax secrecy around its traditional closed-door hearings. However, lawyers are rarely expected to recommend openness for their clients.