Ferdinand backs plans to empower referees in racism fight

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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand has been promised that racism in European grounds will be a thing of the past by the time his career is at an end.

The Manchester United defender has sent a statement to European Union executives in Strasbourg backing their plans to give referees increased powers at matches affected by racist chanting. Officials would be allowed to take players off the field and abandon matches, and the EU resolution is calling on the football authorities to take more decisive action.

The initiative comes a fortnight after Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o threatened to walk off the field in protest at the abuse he received during a La Liga encounter with Real Zaragoza.

Ferdinand said he planned to visit the European Parliament to speak on the issue. "It is time for Uefa to stop paying lip-service to the problem. The fines handed out after the England-Spain game were a joke. Uefa should look at imposing huge fines or deducting points within tournaments or competitions.

"If Uefa really is serious about kicking racism into touch they should adopt some of the penalties called for in the [EU] resolution and get on with punishing those who defame the game we all love with their backward, racist views."

"For too long now, European football authorities have not taken the problem of racism in the game seriously and refuse to acknowledge how widespread the problem is," he said. "I talk to a lot of European players and know there are big problems in Spain, in Italy and in eastern Europe.

"Just look at what happened to Samuel Eto'o. He was racially abused and what happened? Zaragoza were fined a paltry €9000 (£6,190) by the Spanish FA."

Uefa insist strides are being made, with instances of racism down across Europe this year. "If you look at the facts, football is moving forward faster on this issue,"Uefa's spokesman, William Gaillard, said. "But I ask him to look back 25 years, when no one did anything about racism, to today, when punitive measure are taken across Europe to try to stamp out - not just racism - but sectarianism and homophobia as well.

"I hope Rio Ferdinand plays for a long time but I truly believe, before his career is over, we will have dealt with this problem."

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