Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Outrage as Uefa let Serbia off in latest racism controversy

FA 'disappointed' as European body hands out 'paltry' fine for England Under-21 abuse

The Football Association was at the forefront of widespread condemnation of Uefa's decision to impose just a £65,000 fine on Serbia, while also ordering their Under-21 side to play a single match behind closed doors, as punishment for racist chanting and violence during and after their defeat to England in Krusevac in October.

Alex Horne, general secretary of the Football Association, said: "We are disappointed with the sanctions levied by Uefa with regards to the racist behaviour displayed towards England's players. Racism is unacceptable in any form and should play no part in football. The scenes were deplorable and we do not believe the sanction sends a strong enough message."

Lord Ouseley, chair of Kick It Out, called the outcome "paltry", while Rio Ferdinand accused Uefa of not being "serious at all on racism".

Four Serbian players and two coaches were also banned for their part in the after-match fracas which marred the European Championship play-off. Two England players, Thomas Ince and Steven Caulker, were given bans of one and two matches respectively.

The lengthy statement released by Uefa outlining the sanctions made no mention of racism. Uefa delayed its decision for a month to give its control and disciplinary unit more time to consider the case but the severity of punishment still fell well below expectations, not least because the fine is £16,000 short of the amount Nicklas Bendtner was penalised for displaying a sponsor's name on his underpants during Euro 2012.

Horne had previously suggested the FA would consider refusing to play in Serbia in future if the sanctions were not tough enough. The FA is likely to appeal the bans issued to Ince and Caulker but will wait to receive Uefa's written reasons before determining its next course of action.

"It is the FA's vehement belief that its players and staff acted correctly in the face of provocation, including racist abuse and missiles being thrown," Horne added. "We are therefore surprised to see that two of our players have been given suspensions. We shall await Uefa's reasoning but it is our intention, at this stage, to support our players and appeal these decisions."

Hugh Robertson, the Sport Minister who wrote to Michel Platini, the Uefa president, calling for "tough sanctions" in October, also expressed his disappointment "given the widespread racist abuse aimed at England's players".

Stuart Pearce, the Under-21 manager, insisted that his players had not been at fault. He said: "I am concerned to see our players suspended. From what I witnessed our players were forced to protect themselves in the scenes that followed the game." During the match, England players were subjected to monkey chants, with Danny Rose saying he was targeted. Rose was sent off after the final whistle for kicking the ball away before a melee broke out.

Lord Ouseley said: "Kick It Out shares the concerns of many in football that abuse aimed at black players isn't taken seriously enough. This is a paltry slap on the wrist and again we haven't seen decisive action from Uefa."

Serbia has had problems with racism and fan violence in the past. They were forced to play a Euro 2012 qualifier behind closed doors after fans rioted and caused a game against Italy to be abandoned in Genoa in 2010. In June 2007, a fine of £16,500 was imposed because of racist chants at another Under-21 match against England.