Referees at this year’s Confederations Cup have been given authority by FIFA to end games early if they see instances of discriminatory action coming from the spectators at the match. FIFA also says that it will be deploying anti-discrimination observers to help with this new effort to prevent more scandals from happening on football’s international stage. “These are ground breaking changes in the fight against discrimination,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Infantino said that these measures were put in place to “ensure that the atmosphere in the stadium is one of fair play and respect.”
These measures were already placed on referees in the qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup. This is a three-step procedure in which referees will first stop the match temporarily and make a public announcement ordering the discriminatory behavior to stop. If they sense a second instance, they will suspend the match to a later date, and if it happens again, the referee has the authority to abandon the match completely.
This increased focus on combating racism from football fans comes a month after Ghanaian Sulley Muntari complained about a referee’s passiveness in handling racial abuse coming from Cagliari fans in a Serie A match. When he came off the field to argue with the referee, he was given a red card and suspended for a game, while the referee issued no in-game punishment on the fans. While the Italian football federation eventually overturned the suspension, Muntari said that he didn’t feel FIFA was doing enough to fight what is considered a continental issue. “If you’re interested in something, right away you jump in… Things that are good for them, they do it,” Muntari said when asked about FIFA’s priorities. In Sochi, Russia, one of the host sites for this cup, some Russian fans sported blackface to represent the Cameroonian team, which also raised concerns over a potentially hostile environment if FIFA did not step in with preventive measures.