EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — FIFA's new anti-racism chief Jeffrey Webb believes soccer has failed to support abused players and needs tougher sanctions.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter appointed Webb, the CONCACAF president, this week to head a task force on racism after a number of abuse cases among players and fans. "We've been talking for a long time in football (about racism) and I don't really think that we've supported the players," Webb said Saturday after a meeting of soccer's rule-makers. "I don't think we've necessarily put the right sanctions in place to support them. It's a travesty that it comes to that."
Some fines imposed by FIFA have been considered too lenient. FIFA fined Bulgaria and Hungary in January about $40,000 each for racist and anti-Semitic abuse by their fans. "I really don't think that financial instruments in today's world are enough to deal with it," Webb said. "With the money that's involved in football today, the fines that are being established, I don't think they're working, obviously."
Blatter has previously said point deductions and relegation punishments are needed as disciplinary options to help deal with discrimination at matches. The heaviest bans for racist abuse by players have come in England. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez served an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra during a match. Chelsea captain John Terry was suspended for four games for hurling insults at Anton Ferdinand at Queens Park Rangers.
Webb plans to make a fact-finding trip to England where he hopes to speak to players, including Suarez, Terry, Evra and Ferdinand. "I will be meeting with the FA chairman David Bernstein and visiting the FA," Webb said. "At that time I would also like to meet with some of the players, perhaps have a round-table discussion to talk to the players and get their input, get some suggestions from them and learn from what their experiences are. Obviously, there's a number of players who have been victimized, targeted. Plus we would like to hear both sides, really."
Bernstein is pleased that FIFA is recognizing the need to deal with discrimination in soccer. "It is vitally important football's governing bodies share experiences and knowledge if we are to properly tackle this issue," Bernstein said.
Webb's task force will have at least six members, and he'll present his initial findings to the FIFA Congress in May. Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands, also has concerns about the lack of opportunities for black players in higher levels of the sport.
"I played football and I wanted to go into administration," he said. "Some players, (Paul) Ince might want to go into management. Sol Campbell might want to be the next coach for Arsenal. Do they really have that opportunity?"
"We as a football family, overall, have to sit down and take a look in the mirror," Webb added. "What happens to the players after they finish playing? Do they really have a chance at being a professional manager? Do people of color really have a chance to become executive directors of various clubs and boards?"
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris