| WARSAW, June 6
WARSAW, June 6 UEFA president Michel Platini has
warned players they would be booked if they walked off the pitch
for being racially abused at Euro 2012 and they should instead
talk to the referee who can decide whether to stop the game.
Platini, in his opening news conference two days before the
start of the tournament on Friday, said referees were fully
empowered to halt matches temporarily, or abandon them totally,
if racist abuse was directed at players from the crowd.
Italy forward Mario Balotelli said last week that he would
walk off the field if he was targeted, but Platini warned him,
and every other player, not to do anything rash.
"We will certainly support the referee if he decided to stop
the game. But it's not a player, Mr Balotelli, who's in charge
of refereeing. It's the referee who takes these decisions.
"So, the referee has been given advice and he can stop the
game if there are problems.
"But it's not me, not the UEFA president, who is in charge
of the game for 90 minutes. It's the referee. We will support
the referee, of course - always."
Pierluigi Collina, the former World Cup final referee who is
now UEFA's chief refereeing officer, told reporters at the
briefing that UEFA officials had visited all 16 teams and
explained the procedure to stop the game.
He said that if a player complained to the referee about
racism, the referee would take the necessary action.
"The referees have a protocol so they know what they have to
do. The match director knows what has to be done. The players
know the protocol.
"We have visited all the camps before the start of the
competition, so everything is clear and everyone is ready."
Piara Power, executive director of Football Against Racism
in Europe (FARE), who was also at the briefing, told reporters
afterwards: "There is no question we are more worried about
racism at this tournament than at any other and it is good to
know that Mr Platini understands what is going on.
"We have 31 independent international monitors and it is
their job, not just to look out for the more obvious racism, but
also the nuanced issues, that is certainly not the job of the
"Their job is to pick out right-wing banners and insignia,
and discriminatory chants and to provide ongoing liaison with
the match delegates.
"We are expecting that UEFA's disciplinary commission will
sanction any fans displaying far-right banners as there have
been at past Euros. The UEFA system is three strikes and you are
"A fine, then another fine, then forcing teams to play
behind closed doors. If the system is in full effect we could
have a team kicked out of the competition for far right
Powar also said the fact more locals may take up tickets not
being used by travelling fans from abroad is also a worry.
"It is a fear on our side. There are tickets on the open
market which locals are buying and that is a danger, there is no
making allowance for that."
Croatia, who play in the same group as Ireland, Spain and
Italy, have twice been fined for the racist behaviour of their
fans, but the three-strike rule does not apply to them as one
sanction was from FIFA and another from UEFA.
The European governing body fined them 20,000 Swiss francs
($20,800) a few weeks after Euro 2008 for racist banners and
behaviour during their match against Turkey.
World ruling body FIFA then fined the Croatian FA 30,000
Swiss francs a few months later after their fans abused
England's Emile Heskey in a World Cup qualifier in Zagreb.
Platini said he had not seen the BBC Panorama programme
shown last week that highlighted the racist behaviour of Polish
and Ukrainian fans and was not aware that the families of
England youngsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had
decided not to travel to the Euros for fear of racist attacks.
"I cannot comment on that," he said, "and I can't predict
what's going to happen, the behaviour of 60,000-70,000 people in
a football stadium.
"But racism is a global problem and I don't think there's
any more racism in Poland and Ukraine than in France or anywhere
else, or even in England.
"It's not a footballing problem. It's a problem for society
but we will try our best to regulate the problem in our
($1 = 0.9607 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris)