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Sunday, January 20, 2013
Blatter vows to get tough on racism

ESPN staff

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said that teams guilty of discrimination could be punished with point deductions and even relegation.

Blatter courted controversy in 2011 when he told CNN World Sport that "there is no racism" in football and added: "We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen ... on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better."

He was widely criticised for those remarks and faced calls to resign his post, but he has since adopted a more hardline stance over the matter.

Following the well-publicised incidents at the end of the England Under-21 team's play-off match in Serbia in October, Blatter indicated that he felt UEFA's punishment - an €80,000 fine and one match to be played behind closed doors - was insufficient, and vowed to take up the matter with Michel Platini.

He had more recently condemned the racist abuse suffered by AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng during a friendly game with Pro Patria earlier this month, although he said walking off the field was not a solution.

Speaking at a press conference in Saint Petersburg, Blatter has now said: "The entire world fights against racism and discrimination. Football is part of the world's society. We unite more than 300 million people around the world and should set an example. Without serious sanctions, nothing will ever change."

Writing on his Twitter account on Sunday morning, he said discussions over potential punishments would take place in the coming weeks and that, with the current sanctions failing to make a suitable impact, relegation could be an option.

He tweeted: "Sanctions against discriminatory acts must be very severe. We will discuss this at next Strategic Committee in 3 weeks.

"Deduction of points/team relegation. Financial sanctions: not efficient. Matches behind closed-doors: not good solution."

Piara Powar, the executive director of the FARE network which works in over 40 countries to tackle discrimination and social exclusion, welcomed Blatter's latest remarks.

Powar said: "We welcome any suggestion that the rules of football will be applied more stringently and governing bodies at all levels forced to recognise their responsibilities. There has been enough talking without decisive action.

"But that is not enough, education and awareness-raising must be at the centre of action. We cannot allow a feeling to develop where people think sanctions to deal with discrimination are about top-down political correctness."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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