The Football Association has announced that players found guilty of racially abusing an opponent will be suspended for a minimum of five games.
“Football is about inclusivity and we want everyone to be able to play the game in a safe and welcoming environment,” those were the words of FA chairman David Bernstein at the FA’s annual general meeting on Thursday.
And for other cases that have to do with discrimination, the FA has announced the same punishment. Such cases include disability, sexuality and religion.
A second- time offender risks a minimum ban of ten matches in addition to any financial penalty.
A ten- game ban is what the European body UEFA last month proposed for those found guilty of racial abuse during its competitions.
At the meeting, it was agreed that the new disciplinary measures- as were the case of Hawk Eye goal- line technology- will be introduced from the beginning of next season.
If two or more employee of a club were sanctioned for discriminatory abuse in the space of 12- month period, clubs may also be charged.
Level of punishment will rise if there are ‘aggravating’ factors.
In the event of discrimination on the field of play relating to race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, ability or disability, gender reassignment, gender, ethnicity and colour, charges will be brought against the offenders.
“The FA remains committed to this vital agenda and we will contribute upwards of £4 million to the ongoing work,” Bernstein added.
“We have consulted far and wide and the new sanction and education package has been agreed by all partners involved in the process, including the Professional Footballers’ Association, the League Managers’ Association, Premier League , Football League, referees and (anti racism groups) Kick It Out.
In addition to suspension, offenders will have to undergo mandatory education on anti- discrimination issues.
The FA has been increasingly under pressure to clarify its punishment for racial offences following high- profile cases including John Terry and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
If you could recall, Terry was handed a four- match ban and a £220,000 fine for racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand in October 2011, while Suarez received an eight- match suspension and a £40,000 fine for his abuse on Manchester United full- back Patrice Evra.
The FA has chosen not to emulate UEFA, which has suggested a minimum of 10- game ban for cases of racial abuse in its competitions, such as the Champions League and the European Championships.
For Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley, who spoke before the new punishments were announced.
“If UEFA are prepared to go with ten (games ban), let’s go with ten. We will look stupid if UEFA go with ten and we go with five.
“It will not add any credibility to the FA’s stance that it has a zero tolerance on this matter,” he said. It’s very important they build credibility and send out a very confident message that will make people feel they can complain and something will be done.”