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May 5, 2014

LFP promises tough action on racism

The Spanish League (LFP) has promised to bring in strict new punishments to deal with racism in domestic football.

Corrigan: No small problem
• Hunter: Anti-racism momentum

Dani Alves and Papakouli Diop have both been victims of racial abuse in recent weeks.
Dani Alves and Papakouli Diop have both been victims of racial abuse in recent weeks.

The issue of racism in La Liga has been highlighted in recent weeks after Barcelona's Dani Alves picked up and ate a banana thrown at home during a game at Villarreal. A subsequent social media campaign launched by Alves' Barca and Brazil colleague Neymar has brought the international spotlight onto the Spanish game, with widespread outrage again last weekend when some Atletico Madrid supporters abused Levante's Papakouli Diop.

While the individual who threw the banana at Alves was identified and banned for life by Villarreal before being arrested and charged by local police, and the incident included in the official match report of referee David Fernandez Borbalan, the LFP has yet to take any official action itself.

The Spanish League broke its silence on the matter by releasing a statement the day after the Levante-Atletico game condemning all racism and violence in football, insisting the organisation was working with the Spanish government to introduce new punishments for offenders, and also promising to implement a new obligatory training programme to help clubs deal with the issue.

"The Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) and in particular, its Department of Integrity, vociferously condemns any act of discrimination, violence, racism, xenophobia or intolerance in the world of football and sport in general," the statement said.

"In this sense, the LFP warns that it is taking steps, before the [Spanish government's] Anti-Violence Commission in Sport, to introduce sanctions for serious violations of the 2007 anti-violence, xenophobia, racism and intolerance in sport law, against those who have been involved in such incidents over the past few matchdays. In all cases, the LFP will punish this type of behaviour and announces that the prevention of these acts will come in the form of obligatory training courses for all clubs associated with the LFP."

Alves has regularly pointed out that he has been subjected to racist abuse throughout his 11 years in La Liga, and that previous attempts to draw attention to the issue have fallen mostly on deaf ears. A Primera Division club whose supporters are found guilty of racist abuse can be heavily fined and have their ground closed for subsequent games, however such serious measures have never been taken. Officials [such as Villarreal president Fernando Roig after the recent incident] instead often talk of "isolated incidents" and the "unfairness" of punishing a club for the actions of one individual.

The 2013-14 season has seen a number of serious incidents of racism during games. Police took action against two Elche fans who were caught on camera directing racist abuse at Granada defender Allan-Romeo Nyom during a game in last October, while Atletico were fined 10,000 euros by UEFA after racist abuse was aimed at Manchester City youth players during a recent UEFA Youth League game.

However the LFP itself has not directly taken action against member clubs who cannot control their fans. In February, a section of Atletico supporters sang "Marcelo is a monkey" at the Real Madrid player after a Copa del Rey game, but there was no official response from either club or the league authorities.

There was also no official response when Real Betis defender Paulao publicly called for followers of his own club who abused him during a defeat to local rivals Sevilla last November to be punished -- even after FIFA president Sepp Blatter tweeted that he had been "sickened" by the incident.

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