by James Daniels
The dark cloud of racism currently engulfing the nation’s favourite sport shows no sign of dissipating, as Manchester City football players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse during a match last night.
The abuse purportedly occurred at the hands of FC Porto supporters during a Europa League match, and Manchester City are planning to launch a complaint to UEFA over the behaviour of the Portuguese club’s fans.
According to Manchester City media officials and player Mario Balotelli, racist abuse and chants were directed at Yaya Toure and Balotelli himself. However, City manager Roberto Mancini said that he had not noticed any racist abuse, as his focus was fixed too tightly on the game to notice anything out of the ordinary from the crowd.
The incident comes at a time when there is much consternation and discussion over racism in football, thanks to a number of ugly incidents that have made the news. For example, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez recently served an eight game ban for using a racial slur towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg bemoaned the ‘racial ceiling’ in football last November, highlighting the dearth of black players moving into football management.
Due to the tribal nature of football, fans will always have derogatory things to say about opposing teams – however, there are numerous laws in place to guard players, staff, and fans alike from being subjected to racial abuse.
The application of the law depends on the situation in which racial abuse might be occurring – for example, racist abuse by a fan outside a football stadium might be classed as a ‘Racially Aggravated Criminal Offence’, a category of offence created under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
However, racist chanting inside a football stadium within the context of a football match is illegal under the Football (Offences) Act 1991, which criminalises ‘indecent or racialist chanting’.
Those convicted of racist chanting can be handed a level 3 fine (usually up to £1,000) as well as a ban from attending football matches in the future. Violation of such an order could lead to further punishment, including up to six months in prison.