Hungary have been ordered to play two home FIFA competition matches behind closed doors, one suspended for two years, over racist behaviour by fans at the World Cup qualifier against England earlier this month.
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were targeted with monkey chants during the match on September 2 in Budapest, which England won 4-0.
In addition to the stadium ban, FIFA’s disciplinary committee imposed a fine of 200,000 Swiss francs (just under £160,000).
A FIFA statement read: “After analysing and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, specifically the seriousness of the incidents (racist words and actions, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, blocked stairways), the committee decided that the MLSZ would play its next two home matches in FIFA competitions without spectators, the second match being suspended for a probationary period of two years.
“FIFA’s position remains firm and resolute in rejecting any form of racism and violence as well as any other form of discrimination or abuse. FIFA takes a clear zero-tolerance stance against such abhorrent behaviour in football.”
FIFA opened proceedings against Hungary the day after the match, but the football authorities were criticised over the failure to carry over a UEFA stadium ban imposed in July for racist chanting and homophobic banners into the World Cup qualifiers, which are overseen by FIFA.
The UEFA sanctions do not come into force until the Nations League next year. Article 66 of FIFA’s disciplinary code allows confederations such as UEFA to request the extension of a sanction into FIFA competition, but UEFA sources insisted at the time of the incident against England that its own regulations had prevented it from doing so.
Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett told the PA news agency at the time of the abuse that it was “preventable and predictable”.
The Professional Footballers’ Association also condemned the abuse and urged FIFA and UEFA to close the regulatory “loophole”.
It is also understood FIFA’s disciplinary committee was unable to take the previous offending sanctioned by UEFA just two months ago into account. Again, sources cited the fact that Article 66 had not been invoked.
FIFA had promised “adequate actions” after the incident and despite the much larger fine than ones previously handed to Hungary, it remains to be seen whether the wider football community will regard this sanction that way.
Bellingham tweeted the day after the match to say that racist abuse would be “part of the game” until “proper punishments” were issued.
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand told PA on September 10 that he expected a team would soon walk off in response to such abuse, because of what players see as insufficient deterrents from the authorities.
“That will happen soon, a team will walk off. I don’t know about England but it will happen because players are feeling more empowered to be able do that,” he said.
“It is being spoken about more and more and it won’t feel abnormal doing it because vocalising how you feel makes it more normalised. Then people will end up doing it unless the authorities really start to put things in place which is a deterrent to these fans.
“At the moment the authorities are saying we will give you a little slap on the wrist and a little fine, but it doesn’t affect the fans so there is no deterrent to stop the fans spouting this s***.”
Kick It Out’s head of development Troy Townsend tweeted following the issuing of the FIFA sanctions: “What does zero tolerance approach even mean? Words that read good in print but we’ll never actually adhere to them.
“Anyway, we have our own problems and don’t even go this far with punishments, so best leave alone.”
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