There must be ‘significant consequences’ for clubs failing to deal with racism in stadiums, says player and union official

After FIFA President Gianni Infantino called for automatic forfeits for teams whose fans have racially abused players and caused matches to be abandoned, the English Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chair says fellow players don’t believe enough is being done to punish racism at soccer matches.

In recent days, soccer has witnessed two high-profile incidents of alleged racism.

AC Milan’s French goalkeeper Mike Maignan led his team off the pitch Saturday due to alleged racist chants directed toward him by opposing fans away at Udinese.

Elsewhere Saturday, Coventry City midfielder Kasey Palmer had a “racist gesture” allegedly aimed at him in his team’s game against Sheffield Wednesday.

Omar Beckles is the PFA chair and currently plays for Leyton Orient in League One of the English Football League. The PFA acts as a union for players in England and Wales.

“Our members want to see real, consistent and significant consequences for racist abuse, both for the individuals who are responsible and for clubs who fail to get a grip of the issue within their stadiums,” Beckles said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, by the PFA.

“The reality is that players don’t believe this is happening. The responsibility for what happens next lies with the authorities.”

In a statement released later on Saturday, Gianni Infantino, the president of soccer’s global governing body FIFA, called the events in England and Italy “totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable.”

“There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination - both in football and in society. The players affected by Saturday’s events have my undivided support,” he said.

Kasey Palmer was allegedly racially abused on Saturday during a match in England. - Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Kasey Palmer was allegedly racially abused on Saturday during a match in England. - Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“We need ALL the relevant stakeholders to take action, starting with education in schools so that future generations understand that this is not part of football or society.”

On top of FIFA’s current three-step protocol – which allows a match to be stopped twice for racist chanting, before abandoning it if it happens a third time – Infantino said he also wants to implement “an automatic forfeit for the team whose fans have committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned.”

He additionally wants worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racist fans.

Beckles added that Palmer “deserves to be commended for his exemplary behavior and measured response in an extremely challenging situation.”

“Those responsible for this incident were recorded, and they must be identified. They should face criminal charges and a ban from football,” Beckles said.

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