FIFA and UEFA should have worked together to protect England’s players from the “preventable and predictable” racist abuse they suffered in Hungary on Thursday night, according to the chief executive of Kick It Out.
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were targeted by monkey chants during the match in Budapest, which England won 4-0.
Tony Burnett said the governing bodies of world and European football should have ensured that a UEFA sanction issued against Hungary in July for homophobic and racist offences during Euro 2020 applied for the World Cup qualifying campaign, which is under FIFA’s jurisdiction.
Instead, the UEFA decision to order Hungary to play two home matches without fans will not come into effect until next year’s Nations League is played.
Burnett also said it would be “laughable” if the offences which led to the UEFA sanctions are not taken into account by FIFA when it considers punishment related to Thursday night’s abuse. It is understood FIFA is holding internal discussions about whether the UEFA sanctions would constitute reoffending or be treated as a new offence. If it is the latter, Hungary could expect more lenient treatment.
Burnett told the PA news agency: “I think intent really for me is the crux of this problem. If FIFA wanted to solve this issue and wanted to do the right thing, we wouldn’t have seen the events of last night because they would have been serious and put the preventative measures in place.
“If they’re now in a conversation about whether this is a new offence because it’s a World Cup qualifier rather than a Euros game, then that’s just laughable, absolutely laughable. Tell that to the players who were abused last night.
“Why do we keep coming back to these same scenarios, when they’re so predictable and they’re so preventable? If the governing bodies and the right people have got the intent to affect change, they’ll do it.
“The question for us is why FIFA didn’t act to prevent this, and why the global football system didn’t work together to prevent this. All I’m hearing again thus far is excuses about who should file what paperwork and who should file permission for X, Y and Z.
“The players and Gareth Southgate, yet again, are having to talk about a really distressing situation they have been put in because the authorities didn’t do their job.
“If we knew that (there was a risk of racist abuse at the match) then FIFA knew it.
“I just really question the will, intent and desire to eradicate discrimination if you can’t protect players in a city and in an environment where you’re 90 per cent sure they’re going to get abused.
“If a country is being found guilty of discrimination, and the stadium has been ordered to be closed to fans, that should apply irrespective of the competition that that country’s playing in because the message is really simple.
“The message is: ‘If you can’t control your fans and you can’t protect players that are going into that environment, then you’re not fit to hold a game’. Whether that’s a European game or a World Cup qualifier is irrelevant to me.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association also demanded that the “loopholes” which allowed Hungarian fans to attend the match despite the UEFA sanction be closed immediately.
“We will be asking FIFA to investigate the sickening abuse we saw at last night’s game, and we demand they issue the strongest sanctions possible, such as lifetime stadium bans,” the players’ union said in a statement.
“Global football governing bodies need to demonstrate that these behaviours will never be tolerated in our game. Stopping racist abuse at matches must be at the top of their agenda, and loopholes that allow already-sanctioned racist fans to attend games must be closed.”
The world governing body has promised “adequate actions” will be taken once it has received the match reports from Thursday’s game and says it has a zero tolerance stance towards discrimination.
The abuse was also condemned by the Football Association and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
FIFA ordered Hungary to play a World Cup qualifier behind closed doors in January 2013 after anti-Semitic behaviour during a match against Israel.
Burnett praised England’s players for the way they conducted themselves amid an extremely hostile atmosphere, with players also pelted with cups and booed as they took the knee in an anti-racism gesture before kick-off.
The Hungarian federation (MLSZ) pledged to impose two-year bans on any fans found guilty of misconduct.
“The vast majority of the 60,000 fans present in the Puskas Arena supported the teams in a sporting manner, cheering on the Hungarian national team even when the team was already losing. It is in their defence that the minority of disruptive ticket-holders need to be identified and severely punished,” the federation said in a statement.
“Fans entering the field of play, throwing flares and plastic cups are in the process of being identified. The MLSZ has already filed or will file police reports against them and will pass on any financial penalties to the perpetrators through civil litigation. Furthermore, at the end of proceedings, those found guilty can expect a two-year ban from all sporting events.
“The Hungarian federation and the players and head coach all made an extremely strong communication campaign before the game to call supporters to avoid all kind of racist, xenophobic behaviour during all matches of the national team.”
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