The English Football Association (FA) have launched a spirited defence of their record in dealing with racism as they seek to avoid punishment after being charged over the racist abuse meted out by England fans during last week’s match against Turkey.
England face the threat of being forced to play their next European Championship qualifier behind closed doors after UEFA yesterday charged the FA over the racist abuse. The FA already faced a less serious charge over the pitch invasions that occurred during the match.
FA marketing and communications chief Paul Barber said the FA will co-operatefully with UEFA.
He stated: ‘We are disappointed that UEFA have felt it necessary to bring the charges against us but clearly we will co-operate fully with any UEFA inquiry, and we are already in the process of our own internal investigation and report into this match.
‘We totally condemn any racist chanting whatsoever. It’s unnecessary and it’s totally unacceptable. This is particularly disappointing as we have worked very hard for several years with successful campaigns, particularly Kick it Out, to rid the English game of any form of racism.
‘We have been focussed in the build-up to the game, planning with the local police, with the club, various supporters groups, the local community and of course the Turkish FA to ensure that this game passed off as smoothly and safely as possible for everybody both on and off the pitch.
‘We condemn and will not tolerate any form of racist behaviour in the game at any level.’ On the prospect of having to play behind closed doors, Barber added: ‘I think it is too early for us to speculate about things.
‘The important thing at the moment is getting to the bottom of what happened, submitting our evidence and putting our case and arguing we did everything possible to prevent any kind of trouble on the night and have done for many years.
‘I don’t want to speculate on what the sanctions might be, but if that (playing behind closed doors) is the case, then of course there would be lost revenue – but the important thing at the moment is to complete the investigation, co-operate with UEFA fully and see where the enquiry goes from there.’
The FA have until April 21 to submit their response. A precedent for playing the match behind closed door was set when UEFA gave Slovakia such a punishment following racist abuse by their supporters at the match with England.
UEFA’s communications director Mike Lee said that if found guilty, England would not necessarily receive the same punishment as Slovakia.
He said: ‘I cannot make any predictions about this current case but we do believe there is a serious case to answer.
‘You cannot compare cases, you to deal with them individually, look at their track record, what occurred and whetherit was inside or outside the stadium, and what was the scale of the incident and the nature of the offence.’