No let-up in racism fight: Gianni Infantino

The UEFA Executive Committee has called for tough sanctions to punish racist conduct, and UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino says "we can never lower our guard" in the anti-racism campaign.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino speaks to media after the UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Turin.
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino speaks to media after the UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Turin. ©Getty Images

"No to racism" – the clear message has been reiterated by UEFA in the wake of recent incidents in European domestic football. Both the UEFA Executive Committee and UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) – which includes representatives of UEFA, clubs, leagues and players – have issued a call for racist-related offences at matches to be punished heavily.

The two bodies urged tough sanctions to support the anti-racism resolution passed unanimously by UEFA's member associations at last year's Ordinary UEFA Congress in London. UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, speaking after the Executive Committee meeting in Turin on Tuesday, said there must be no let-up in the fight to remove racism, discrimination and intolerance from the game.

"Following incidents which happened recently, both the Executive Committee and the Strategy Council have felt the need once again to urge everyone to never let racist behaviour go unpunished," Mr Infantino told UEFA.com. "It is important that we are always strong in this fight." UEFA has also introduced tougher measures in its disciplinary regulations, including partial and full stadium closures, as well as heavy fines.

"The fight against racism is a process which we started some time ago, and which the UEFA President, the UEFA Executive Committee and the Congress have embraced with their full weight," he said. "We have had the total support of football players, coaches, presidents, referees. Everyone is fully behind it.

"It is something where we can never lower our guard and stop fighting," Mr Infantino explained. "We must always keep expressing [the message]. The feeling was that, at this stage of the season, we should express this [message] very strongly once again."

UEFA also said on Tuesday that the ceremony announcing the hosts of matches at UEFA EURO 2020 will take place at the Espace Hippomène in Geneva on 19 September, and that the voting procedure to select the hosts had been confirmed.

Nineteen bids have been confirmed by 19 countries following the 25 April expiry deadline, and the evaluation process is beginning, to designate the 13 venues that will stage the 'EURO for Europe' in six years' time. "The voting procedure is very sophisticated to make sure that matches played in EURO 2020 will be all over Europe," said Mr Infantino. "We are very happy that we have had 19 bidders. If you look at the landscape, you can see that [they] really cover the whole of Europe.

"To have qualified bidders at this stage of the procedure from 19 different countries means that in Europe, out of 54 countries, we can have – as we wished – the European Championship taking place throughout the continent in 13 countries. It's a beautiful picture of European football. We are very happy with how the procedure is going until now."

Approval was given by the Executive Committee in Turin to the structure of an ambitious new 'UEFA foundation' project announced by UEFA President Michel Platini at the recent Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan. The foundation will give support in the areas of health, education, access to sport, personal development, integration of minorities and defending the rights of the child, and other areas.

"UEFA has decided, to mark its 60th anniversary this year, to set up a UEFA foundation for charity; the objective will be to help children in need," said Mr Infantino. "The foundation is a separate entity to UEFA; the details will be elaborated upon in the coming months."