HOLYWOOD, Northern Ireland // Fifa president Sepp Blatter has voiced concern after a recently completed study highlighted the scale of Russian football’s racism problem ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
Blatter on Sunday warned that there “must be some sanctions” if the extremism is not eradicated.
A report produced by the Fare network, an organisation that combats discrimination in football, and the Moscow-based SOVA Centre showed that Russia is plagued by a racist and far-right extremist fan culture.
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“I am aware of the report,” Blatter said. “We are concerned, definitely.”
Blatter’s approach to combating racism faced criticism before Fifa introduced tougher sanctions in 2013, which can see a team being banned from a tournament for repeat offences by a club or its fans.
Blatter spoke last July to Russian president Vladimir Putin about making the tackling of racism a priority, but cases have continued to blight the 2018 World Cup host nation, including in high-profile Uefa Champions League games.
“Education, definitely, is required and if it does not stop then there must be some sanctions,” Blatter said at the meeting of football rule makers at the International Football Association Board meeting in Belfast.
“We have started a big education programme with them. They are aware of the situation.”
The Time for Action report on Russian racism details dozens of cases of discriminatory behaviour linked to Russian football over two seasons and warned that “it will be difficult to ensure the safety of visitors” at the World Cup.
It followed Tokyo Sexwale, an adviser to Fifa’s anti-racism task force, reporting recently that black people are “scared of going to Moscow”.
The Fare network wants diversity actively promoted in host cities and sanctions for discriminatory conduct consistently applied by the Russian football authorities, a plan created to take on far-right groups.
“Racism is one of the items which is on my agenda; on the very top, every day,” Blatter said.
“But every day unfortunately, we have racist demonstration somewhere in the world and we have to fight that.
“I just have a discussion with Tokyo Sexwale on this matter and we will have somewhere a meeting at the end of March because there must be some ways to have solutions, because it cannot go on.”
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