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EPL to start minimum 5-game ban

LONDON -- Racist and homophobic abuse by players in England will carry a minimum five-match ban from next season.

The Football Association says the sanction will be the entry-level punishment for the least serious discriminatory offenses, with longer bans possible.

The FA Council agreed Thursday to the sanctions first reported by The Associated Press on Monday.

For second offenses, there will be a minimum 10-game ban, which UEFA has urged national associations in Europe to implement as the absolute minimum for players found guilty of racist abuse.

FA chairman David Bernstein says "any racism is unacceptable, but there are different levels of offense."

English clubs that have two or more players found guilty of discrimination offenses within a 12-month period will also face charges and could even have points deducted in the standings.

Players found guilty of offenses will also have to attend educational programs.

The new rules come after a review of sanctions following the high-profile cases which saw John Terry banned for four matches and Luis Suarez for eight games for racist abuse on the pitch.

Both of those cases would carry longer bans than just five games, Press Association reported.

"Importantly, today's agreement encompasses all elements of discrimination, not just racial abuse," FA chairman David Bernstein said.

There is potential embarrassment for the FA, however, given that it is hosting UEFA's Congress in London next week, and Europe's governing body will submit a resolution recommending that all member associations follow its lead on 10 matches.

Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-racism body FARE and a member of FIFA's new anti-racism task force, told Press Association: "As someone working across borders to promote anti-discrimination I think it's a shame it can't be the 10 games UEFA say they will implement in their own competitions and that they are recommending all national associations will adopt. It is a missed opportunity, and also a shame when the FA has already sanctioned a player, Luis Suarez, for more than five matches for racism.

"One of the biggest concerns is inconsistency and mixed messages. It's progress to have a minimum sanction, but sanctions for players appear to be made up on the hoof. Why is biting 10 games [the recent ban given to Suarez] and racism five games? Surely UEFA's 10-match ban should be the standard to follow."

Bernstein defended the FA's decision not to follow UEFA's lead, saying the five-game ban had been agreed by all parts of the English game including anti-racism body Kick It Out.

"From our point of view [the 10-match ban] has no subtlety to it. It should have subtlety to it," he said. "Any racism is unacceptable but there are different levels of offense. It's also a timing issue. We have been through an extensive process and have to get it approved through English football. It [UEFA's ban] came in right at the end of the process when we have spent months getting a consensus.

"But if European football says the line is in the wrong place then we may have to re-evaluate that."

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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