England's supporters have been reported to Fifa by European football's anti-racist watchdog Fare for alleged racist chanting about Rio Ferdinand during England's World Cup qualifier in San Marino last week.
If Fifa decide there is a case to answer the Football Association could face an ultimate sanction of being forced to play a game behind closed doors, although a fine would be the most likely outcome. Abusive chants about Ferdinand, who pulled out of the game citing fitness concerns only to fly to Doha to work as a pundit for Al Jazeera, were clearly heard during the match in San Marino last Friday.
England fans chanted "Rio Ferdinand, you know what you are" and then sung an obscene song that suggested Ferdinand and his brother Anton should be burnt on a bonfire. It is the second chant in particular that is understood to be under scrutiny.
"One of the things we want to underline straight off is that sometimes racism doesn't only take the form of monkey chants or bananas being thrown," said Piara Powar, head of Fare. "Sometimes there are things that are more subtle at play.
"In the end we are not responsible for making a decision on whether England fans are guilty of racism here but we do have a duty to report things that are said to us because individuals have reported them as racist or xenophobic within the context. We have people who look at this stuff and they have a fairly clear idea of the standards required by governing bodies.
"It's then put to them and it's their process. In this case it's Fifa's process. They see whether the evidence hits the standard to take forward a prosecution."
Fare did not have observers at the match and the report submitted to Fifa was assembled via information from witnesses who attended the game. Fifa is awaiting reports from its own match commissioner before deciding whether any disciplinary action should be instigated. A decision will not be made until the middle of next week as the governing body's offices are currently closed for the Easter break. The FA has yet to receive Fare's report and was unaware of any allegations of racist chanting. FA security officials who were at the game did not report anything untoward.
While the chants include no obvious racial references, it is the inclusion of Anton Ferdinand's name that raised Fare's concerns. It was the younger Ferdinand whom John Terry was accused of racially abusing – an incident that begun a chain of events that saw Terry retire from international football.Reuse content