UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin admits his organisation needs to do more to tackle racism but says the problem is in society and not just football.
The Slovenian leader of European football’s governing body addressed UEFA Congress on Tuesday, and spoke of the great commercial and sporting success his confederation has enjoyed in recent years.
UEFA has received criticism for not enforcing harsher punishments for racist abuse.
The Bulgarian federation was ordered to play one national team match behind closed doors – with a further match suspended for two years – over the abuse directed at England’s black players during a Euro 2020 qualifier in October.
“Things need to change,” Ceferin said.
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“We must begin by applying the rules we already have. That would be a good starting point. That means applying the three-step procedure. We must not be afraid to do so. Everywhere. No exceptions.
“In the last three seasons, the UEFA disciplinary bodies have imposed 73 partial stadium closures and ordered 39 matches to be played behind closed doors following incidents of discrimination.
“That shows that we are doing what is currently in our power to do. But it also shows what a serious problem it is, and that we need to do more. More, and perhaps differently. So we that can be proud of ourselves once again.”
“Football is, above all, a celebration of life, community and unity. It’s an exchange. It’s about sharing,” he said.
“The problem is not on the pitch, where diversity is greater than in any other sport and probably any other part of society. The problem is in our societies. And this has to stop.”