MOSCOW, January 4 (R-Sport) - Football referees should have extra powers to call off matches where fans racially abuse players, a spokesman for the worldwide players’ union FIFPro said Friday.
AC Milan walked off in protest at alleged racist abuse in a friendly Thursday, causing the game against lower-league side Pro Patria to be called off.
Players who leave the field without permission in competitive matches because of racist abuse run the risk of being punished by referees or football authorities, a stance supported by UEFA president Michel Platini.
“The players of Milan sent a clear message: if racism does not stop, then football will,” FIFPro anti-racism spokesman Tony Higgins said in a website statement.
“One solution would be to give referees more power to suspend or abandon games if they consider the racist abuse to be excessive.”
“This would require referees to be educated and more informed about racism and how to deal with it on the field of play, but it is one step FIFPro feels must be taken if we are to confront this issue seriously.”
Referees are already allowed to call off matches when crowd disturbances make the game unplayable, but these are typically only used when there is a pitch invasion or violence in the stands.
Higgins, a former player in the Scottish league, warned that anti-racism protests by players could become commonplace.
“The decision by [AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince] Boateng and his teammates may become an increasing trend that football has to deal with in the years ahead,” he said.
“Footballers today are (rightly) not prepared to accept racial abuse and any other form of discriminatory behaviour in the modern game.”
FIFPro said it was not encouraging players to leave the field in cases of racism, but that the action was understandable.