Anti-racism campaigner calls for tough punishment against Lazio


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The Independent Football

Uefa should threaten to make Lazio play their next Europa League game behind closed doors if their fans are found guilty of making monkey chants, leading anti-racism campaigner Piara Powar said today. 

Tottenham's Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Andros Townsend all appeared to be the subject of racist chanting during last night's 0-0 draw against the Italian side at White Hart Lane.

Uefa, whose president Michel Platini was at the game, are awaiting reports from the match delegate and referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan before deciding to take action against Lazio.

Members of anti-discrimination group Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) who were in the crowd at the north London ground, said they heard monkey chanting and they are now filing their reports to Uefa to help them with any potential disciplinary action.

The group's executive director Powar thinks European football's governing body need to issue a tough punishment on Lazio to send a strong message to the club that racism will not be tolerated.

He said: "Uefa normally operate a 'three strikes and you're out' policy, and I think Lazio are at first base in that respect, but if (Uefa) really want to set the bar high, if they really want to send out a strong message, then I think they can do so regardless of whether it's a first or second offence.

"I therefore think that Uefa could move directly to something like a match behind closed doors (punishment).

"They could suspend that punishment, perhaps, and then if something happens further down the line, then they can trigger that.

"Lazio are a strong club. They have been part of the European football scene for a long time. There needs to be quite a hard symbolic action taken when these instances occur.

"This punishment is one way of waking the club and the fans up to some of the problems that they face."

Last season Uefa fined Porto £16,700 for their fans' racist abuse at Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure, but then caused outrage by fining Manchester City £24,735 for being one minute late back onto the pitch after half-time during the Europa League clash.

The punishment also seemed small fry compared to the £80,000 sanction they handed down to Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's logo on his underpants during Euro 2012.

Powar urged Spurs to put pressure on Uefa by submitting an official complaint against the Italian side, who they play in the reverse fixture in November.

"It is important that Tottenham raise their concerns with Uefa directly," Powar added.

"It carries a certain weight if matters are passed on to them by club officials - a weight that regular fans cannot match.

"All too often in the past, there have been clubs - not necessarily Tottenham - who are concerned with the diplomacy of international football, perhaps mindful that they have to play these opponents again.

"But this seems to be a fairly clear situation where fans have come to White Hart Lane and insulted some of the Tottenham players.

"There is the potential for flashpoints in the return game in Rome and Uefa need to be aware of that."