FIFA fines Russia after fans racially abused France players
GENEVA (AP) — Five weeks before the World Cup kicks off, FIFA fined the Russian soccer federation 30,000 Swiss francs ($29,900) on Tuesday because fans racially abused France players during a game in St. Petersburg.
Monkey chants were aimed at black players, including Paul Pogba, during France's 3-1 win over Russia in a friendly in March at a marquee stadium which will host seven World Cup games.
FIFA said its disciplinary panel noted "the gravity of the incident but also the limited number of fans involved."
Anti-racism group Kick It Out said FIFA's "lack of effective action ... will likely result in the further abuse of black players in matches involving (Russia)."
Russia faced criticism of racist incidents in domestic club games even before it was picked as World Cup host in 2010, and the federation was fined for racial incidents involving fans at the past two European Championships.
Russia will play one group-stage game in St. Petersburg, against Egypt on June 19. The host nation also plays Saudi Arabia and Uruguay in Group A.
London-based Kick It Out said it had "little confidence that FIFA can effectively deal with potential incidents of racism during this summer's World Cup and protect those black players, staff and supporters who will be in attendance."
FIFA said a disciplinary panel chaired by Anin Yeboah, a supreme court judge from Ghana, had made a "thorough investigation including the review of video evidence."
The fine is similar to other financial penalties for discriminatory chanting imposed on national federations by FIFA after World Cup qualifying games.
The stadium in St. Petersburg was the showpiece venue of the 2017 Confederations Cup warm-up tournament. It will soon host World Cup group-stage games involving Brazil, Morocco and Nigeria, and later a semifinal match.
The FIFA case follows racism charges by European soccer body UEFA against Zenit St. Petersburg in two Europa League games this season.
On May 31 — two weeks before Russia kicks off the World Cup against Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14 — UEFA will judge a charge of racist chanting by Zenit fans during a game against Leipzig.
Monitors from anti-discrimination group Fare said the chants mocked an injured black player for the German club.
At the tournament, FIFA will be working with Fare experts for the first time at a World Cup.
"FIFA has also introduced a three-step procedure in case of discriminatory incidents, which allows referees to actively intervene to make the discriminatory behavior stop," the governing body said.
"FIFA calls on all fans to come to the stadiums in a spirit of unity, peace and friendship."