Referees can blow the final whistle on fan abuse

MOSCOW • Referees at this year's Confederations Cup in Russia will have the power to abandon games over discriminatory behaviour by fans, the world football governing body Fifa said.

Referees can halt the match and make a public announcement over discriminatory fan behaviour, temporarily suspend the game if the problem persists, and stop the match if the behaviour does not cease.

Fifa also introduced an initiative to deploy anti-discrimination officials into the crowd to detect and report abusive behaviour. The changes are to promote fair play during the tournament.

"These are ground-breaking changes in the global fight against discrimination that will mark the 2017 edition of the Fifa Confederations Cup," Fifa president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.

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"Both initiatives are extra tools for the referees and match officials to prevent discriminatory attitudes and ensure that the atmosphere in the stadium is one of fair play and respect."

Fifa had previously used observers, who are trained by the Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) network, at the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and specific international friendlies.

Earlier last month, Pescara's Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari left the pitch during his team's 1-0 Serie A defeat at Cagliari, after he had been booked for complaining about racist chanting from the crowd.

He was shown the yellow card for dissent by referee Daniele Minelli in the 90th minute and walked off the pitch in protest during stoppage time. He was subsequently sent off.

"The referee should not just stay on the field and blow the whistle, he must do everything. He should be aware of these things and set an example," Muntari said.

"I am not a victim. But if you stop the matches I am convinced that these things won't happen any more."

Hosts Russia will kick off the 10th edition of the Confederations Cup against 2016 OFC Nations Cup champions New Zealand tomorrow.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Referees can blow the final whistle on fan abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe