UAE sports law against racism will see offenders fined up to Dh1m

Racist insults, unruly behaviour or violence at sporting events will see offenders facing tough punishments under newly introduced laws.

Violence or riots at sports events can be punished with fines of between Dh10,000 and Dh30,000. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // New laws include fines of up to Dh1 million and harsher prosecution for offences including racist insults, unruly behaviour or violence at sporting events.

These – and others including corruption within sporting organisations and using events for political gain – are now covered by criminal law rather than sports bodies’ codes of conduct.

And crimes such as theft will be punished more harshly if carried out at sporting venues, prosecutor Hassan Al Hammadi said yesterday.

“So if one steals at the Formula One race, because the crime was committed during a sports event they will face more stringent punishment than if they stole at any other place,” he said.

The Sports Law, which came into effect in late October, also covers matters including “transfer of players between clubs, insurance from sports injuries, steroids, sports medicine and the many cases of violence and riots on fields”.

Establishment of a dedicated sports court is also being considered.

The law forbids anyone from using a sports field for political gain, “such as distributing political flyers, or using the crowd to repeat political slogans and so on”, said Mr Al Hammadi.

It provides fines of between Dh500,000 and Dh1 million for anyone found guilty of crimes including cheating, match-fixing or fraudulently winning rights to host a sporting event.

The court is also entitled to suspend sporting activities for a minimum of two years.

“Previously, such offenders only faced administrative law,” Mr Al Hammadi said.

The law came into effect on October 29 after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had amendments published in the official gazette.

For this reason the law has been little used.

“Only one or two cases were prosecuted under it,” said Mr Al Hammadi. “There will be an increase. There is nothing that prevents the articles of the law from being applied.”

Violence or riots at sports events – such as throwing objects at the players, swearing or inciting the audience – can be punished with fines of between Dh10,000 and Dh30,000.

“These are trends that are alien to UAE society. During the last Arabian Gulf League we saw practices such as throwing water bottles at the field, the spread of offensive videos, attacking referees. These trends require a stringent stance.”

Prosecutor Ayman Hanafi, a member of the legislative committee at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said it had received the draft law on setting up a special sports court from the Cabinet.

Mr Hanafi said it was being reviewed by relevant parties to add comments and input, but it was too early to speculate as to whether the court would become a reality.