ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA has reiterated that referees will have the power to abandon matches at this month’s World Cup in cases of persistent discrimination in the crowd.
Russia has pledged to crack down on racism as the country faces increased scrutiny before and during the tournament which it will host from June 14 to July 15 in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
But there is still concern over the situation and England defender Danny Rose said on Wednesday that he has told his family not to attend the World Cup because he feared they may be racially abused.
FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said the global soccer body took discrimination very seriously.
“Besides educational measures.... we have systems in place to react to and sanction discriminatory acts as well as measures to ensure a discrimination-free environment at the FIFA World Cup,” she said in a FIFA statement on Thursday.
FIFA said that, for the first time in the tournament’s 88-year history, there would be a dedicated anti-discrimination monitoring system at each match.
A team of three observers from the anti-discrimination FARE network would watch the behaviour of fans from both teams and neutrals. “Those observers understand the language and are trained on the regional specificities of the respective fan cultures,” said the statement. FIFA said referees could also intervene under the so-called three-step procedure.
The referees will have the authority to first stop the game and request a public announcement asking for the discriminatory behaviour to cease.
They can then suspend the match if it continues and ultimately abandon it.
FARE’s executive director Piara Power said the monitoring system had been “very effective” in the World Cup qualifiers especially in identifying homophobic behaviour.
A number of teams, mainly from Latin America, were fined or suffered stadium closures as a result of their reports.
“If issues arise, the observer system allows us to identify them early and have action taken during a match,” he said. FIFA’s head of sustainability and diversity Federico Addiechi said that everyone who is part of the match organisation, including staff, volunteers, teams, stewards and security personnel, had been trained to take action if necessary.
Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond