Spain vows to take tougher stance against racism

March 9, 2006

MADRID, March 9 (Reuters) - Sports minister Jaime Lissavetsky says Spain will introduce tougher legislation to deal with racism in its soccer stadiums.

'The government is preparing changes to the law so that it can act with greater rigour, will be able to hand out heavier sanctions and make individual actions punishable,' the minister was quoted as saying by El Mundo on Thursday.

'We have experienced outbreaks of racism that possibly do not reflect Spanish society, but they have become a reality in certain mass events and we have to eradicate the problem.'

There has been a significant increase in the amount of racist abuse directed against black players in Spanish stadiums in the last two years, but the punishments available for such incidents under existing law are limited.

Last month Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o threatened to leave the pitch during a league match at Real Zaragoza after being abused and insulted by the home fans for the second season in succession.

The club were subsequently fined 9,000 euros by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).