UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson has called for "comprehensive steps" to stamp out the evil of racism within football.
Alien to football's spirit
In his editorial column in the latest edition of the official UEFA publication, uefadirect, Mr Olsson said racism was a "scourge which is completely alien to the spirit of football and its capacity to unite people". The CEO also urged players and officials to behave in the proper manner, on and off the field, to avoid the provocation of spectators.
Mr Olsson introduces his article with comments on the Heysel Stadium tragedy in Brussels in 1985, when 39 people died in crowd disturbances before the European Champion Clubs' Cup final between Liverpool FC and Juventus FC.
"As fate would have it, the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League [which brought together Liverpool and Juventus] highlighted the 20th anniversary of an event we will never forget," Mr Olsson said. "What happened on 29 May 1985 at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels was the darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions.
"Whilst this tragedy could have called into question the future of the major European football competitions, particularly the Champion Clubs' Cup, it soon became clear that defeatism was not the best way to pay tribute to the victims," he added. "Football and the joy it brings its millions of supporters throughout the world was not at issue; instead a comprehensive review of the ways of tackling the problems associated with these big matches was required.
"Consideration gave way to action and a series of measures were meticulously drawn up, revised and implemented. Last year in Portugal, [UEFA] EURO 2004™ proved that international co-operation between local and national governments, police forces and the governing bodies of football can go a long way to helping create the sort of festival atmosphere that should be associated with football.
"Sharing that experience is another way of ensuring safety and security. In this respect, all the measures put into place for EURO 2004™ have been catalogued and analysed, and are being made available to the organisers of similar large-scale events," the Chief Executive reported.
Mr Olsson went on to say that the lessons learned about safety and security should also be applied in the fight to banish racism from football. "Before another tragedy is allowed to happen, comprehensive steps must be taken to stamp out this scourge which is completely alien to the spirit of football and its capacity to unite people," he said.
"This would certainly be the best way of paying tribute to the Heysel victims. And here again, racism, like violence, has to be eliminated on the field of play first of all, with the players and coaches setting an example. Inappropriate behaviour on their part, even beside the pitch, can provoke supporters, and this kind of irresponsible attitude cannot be tolerated."
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